Security researchers routinely report to hosting providers the presence of malicious or compromised sites on those providers’ networks. If these sites are removed or cleaned up quickly, they have less time to spread malware to Internet users. However, with complex environments that often involve multiple layers of hosting providers, resellers, and website operators, there is no consensus on what role providers are expected to play after they learn of a malware site. “We see a lot of frustration—on the part of both security researchers and hosting providers—about the lack of consistency,” said Maxim Weinstein, StopBadware’s executive director. “That’s why we’re working to create a common set of practices that every provider can follow.”
To ensure that this set of practices is sensible and complete, StopBadware has assembled an advisory working group to assist in the development of its best practices document. The group draws from top hosting providers, security companies, and policy organizations, and includes individuals with a broad range of perspectives. “We have established policies to properly deal with badware, but we see some of our peers struggling to find a common reference point which has resulted in a lot of irregularity with how badware is dealt with,” said Sam Fleitman, Chief Operating Officer of Softlayer Technologies. “We’re excited to be a part of this project. We believe it will provide a helpful framework for implementing practical ways to respond to malware reports and to better protect our customers.”
StopBadware has long focused on badware websites, their owners, and the companies—like Google and Mozilla—that warn users away from these sites. Early on, they recognized that hosting providers play a key role, as well. “When we released our first report showing the concentration of badware sites on a small number of providers, it drew attention and led to prompt action,” said Weinstein. “While we continue to report data, we wanted to take the next step and highlight the potential good that can be done by hosting providers that commit themselves to protecting users.”
Information about the working group is available at http://stopbadware.org/home/webhost. The final best practices document will be publicly available in early spring of 2011.
StopBadware is a non-profit organization that works with its network of individuals and partner organizations—including Google, PayPal, Mozilla, and Nominum—to fight back against viruses, spyware, and other badware. The organization began as a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University before spinning off as a standalone organization in 2010. It is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.