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9/23/2011
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Feds Seek Advice To Battle Botnets

Homeland Security and Commerce Departments want to develop voluntary, standard practices that will protect and mitigate attacks on the private sector.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
Two federal agencies are seeking ideas for creating a code of conduct that private-sector Internet service providers (ISPs) can adopt to protect their customers against botnet attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and two Department of Commerce organizations--the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration--are asking the public to weigh in on requirements and approaches to creating a "voluntary industry code of conduct to address the detection, notification, and mitigation of botnets "via a request for proposal on the Federal Register.

Botnets are collections of computers that remote parties control to mount cyber attacks and act in other malevolent ways. These types of attacks are increasing in number, according to the agencies, with various negative results such as remote "monitoring of a consumer's personal information and communication, and exploitation of that consumer's computing power and Internet access," according to the RFP.

[ Botnets are a growth industry. Read Inside The Booming Botnet Industry ]

Once a botnet infects a network, compromised computers also can be used to spread spam, store and transfer illegal content, and attack both public and private-sector networks with denial of service attacks, according to the RFP.

The DHS and Commerce are asking "all Internet stakeholders" to comment on potential models for detection, notification, prevention, and mitigation of botnets' illicit use of computer equipment. The comment period is open until Nov. 4.

The RFP provides a list of questions for those interested in submitting ideas to consider, including pondering what practices already have proved effective against detecting botnets before an attack and what mechanisms already are in place to share information about botnets that would help prevent, detect, and mitigate attacks by them.

The agencies answered the first question themselves in the RFP, noting that there has been successful protection against botnets when Internet service providers (ISP) can identify an attack and notify customers that their network has been infected. They also suggest the creation of a resource center, run either by the private sector, the government, or some kind of hybrid public-private partnership, to provide centralized support for ISP customers to deal with botnet threats.

The feds increasingly are working with the private sector on cybersecurity, especially in the adoption of standards and other best practices that the industry can use to better protect U.S. critical infrastructure.

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