The Council to Secure the Digital Economy (CSDE) and Consumer Technology Association (CTA) today announced the International Anti-Botnet Guide, a new publication intended to help organizations block botnets and other automated, distributed cyberattacks.
USTelecom and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) were also involved in building the guide, which is the product of nine months of collaboration. IT stakeholders can use the guide for basic and advanced practices to reference when defending against bots. These aren't mandates or requirements, the guide points out. IT and security leaders can use them according to the circumstances, processes, and teams specific to their organizations.
No single stakeholder controls the connected economy, where bots have been both damaging and expensive. As the number of people, businesses, and devices grow, so does the potential for botnets to drive phishing, ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS_ attacks, and other digital threats. With the Internet of Things (IoT) poised to reach 20 billion devices by 2020, the global cost of cybercrime could reach trillions of dollars, researchers state in their report. Botnets are a driver of these losses.
"The botnet threat is more severe today than at any previous point in history," researchers point out, referring to threats ranging from the Storm Worm botnet of 2007 to the 2016 Mirai botnet that gained access to nearly 400,000 devices, including video cameras and recorders. While most botnets don't quite reach this scale, smaller attacks can disable websites and services, spread disinformation on social networks, and distribute ransomware.
"A host of bad actors are exploiting a target-rich attack surface," said Robert Mayer, senior vice president of cybersecurity at USTelecom, at an event held for the report today. Two elements are needed to "address this plague," he added: government and industry players working together, and all ecosystem stakeholders adopting measures to make the Internet resilient.
It's a threat that poses myriad challenges throughout the IT ecosystem. Report writers argue infrastructure providers could do more to protect customers, and smaller providers need guidance and resources. Increased software security drives bad actors to build more complex exploits. Many connected devices aren't built, configured, or installed with security in mind.
"There is no higher cause we all share than to address the challenges of our digital economy," said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO at USTelecom. "We understand this is a shared responsibility across our industries ... a compliance-led regulatory model is not going to get us closer to the security that we all seek. This is proof of concept that industry ... is ready to lead."
Dean Garfield, president and CEO of ITI, emphasizes the need to get everyone on the same page sans regulation.
"The threat is asymmetric," he says of botnets, which are constantly evolving. "If you define a solution that's fixed in time, it's unlikely to be as flexible and fluid as the threat."
The botnet mitigation guide breaks its practices down into five types of provider, supplier, and user stakeholders in these categories: infrastructure, software development, devices and device systems, home and small business systems installation, and enterprises.
As an example of the guidance provided in the report, consider its subsection on botnet risk and mitigation among cloud and hosting providers, as part of its infrastructure section: "Because cloud networks are decentralized, they can typically withstand the disruption of numerous network components," experts explain. "This architectural feature makes the cloud more resilient to highly distributed botnets and provides additional mitigation capabilities."
Cloud services offer an added layer of security outside the ISP's infrastructure, they continue, and this protection is increasingly handy as the scale of botnet attacks continues to escalate.
Overall, for infrastructure providers planning to defend against bots, the guide advises first identifying which assets need to be defended and the potential vulnerabilities leaving them exposed. Companies should stay up to date on exploits for each flaw they identify. As for advanced practices, they add, infrastructure providers with access to more resources may have security researchers on hand to analyze heuristics and behaviors to detect malware.
There are additional baseline and advanced practices for signature analysis, heuristic analysis, behavioral analysis, packet sampling, and honeypots under the "Detect Malicious Traffic and Vulnerabilities" section for infrastructure providers, as well as similar levels of guidance for mitigating against distributed threats with filtering, traffic shaping, blackholing, sinkholing, scrubbing, and BGP flowspec. Stakeholders across categories can find similar detailed guidance.
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