Lavasoft News - August 2007

U.S. Steps Up Fight Against Botnets and Spam

The United States has been leading the way in fighting spam and botnet related activities in the past months through a team effort by law enforcement agencies aimed at prosecuting criminals and creating public awareness.

Botnets, networks of zombie computers under the control of so-called “bot herders,” are a ballooning threat to individual PC users’ security, the economy, and even national security, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Following an announcement of progress with its ”Operation Bot Roast” cyber crime project, the FBI has promised more steps forward in terms of prosecutions for spam and botnet related activities in the coming months.

At the recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Spam Summit in Washington, DC, USA, the FBI revealed that it has 70 active investigations into spam-related crimes, according to IDG News Service.

The FBI is collaborating with the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA), a partnership between law enforcement agencies, universities and private businesses, in order to identity spammers, according to FBI special agent J. Keith Mularski. "If we don't address it together, it's only going to get worse," said Mularski, according to IDG.

And the investigations go beyond the borders of the U.S. Greg Crabb of the U.S. Postal Service’s international affairs group, reported working with Interpol and international law enforcement offices from over a dozen countries on an investigation called “Operation Gold Phish,” according to an IT News article.

Since its launch in 2002, the NCFTA has identified over 100 "significant spammers," including five that have been linked to traditional organized crime, Mularski said.

A special operation to fight botnets has also paid off with high results. The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice launched Operation Bot Roast with an aim to battle the growing botnet threat and to bolster awareness on Internet security.

In June, the FBI reported that its Operation Bot Roast had identified over one million victim computer IP addresses being used in criminal activity.

The FBI has also charged numerous individuals with cyber crimes throughout the U.S. as a direct result of the coordinated investigation; the FBI has reported the arrest of three men accused of using an army of hijacked computers for spam related crime.

While this investigation is the largest to date, there is still a fight ahead in terms of controlling networks of zombie computers.

User awareness and education is one key aspect of the battle. “The majority of the victims are not even aware that their computers have been compromised or their personal information exploited,” said FBI Assistant Director James Finch, head of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

Another struggle that lies ahead is continuing to work across borders to tackle cyber-crime. The FBI’s investigation mainly targeted American bot herders and cyber crime victims, but to get to the root of the problem, it will take stronger law enforcement in more countries, as well as a joint effort between nations.

A "massive challenge" that remains in tracking down spammers and enforcing anti-spam rules is coordinating international investigations, said Robert Shaw, head of the cyber security arm of the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency made up of representatives from 91 nations, according to CNET.

"Even people who are experts at working in this space say they still have a really hard problem finding their counterparts in other countries and getting things done in real time," Shaw said.

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Source: CNET

herdsman with computers
Term of the Month
A bot herder is a hacker who installs malicious software on a PC without the knowledge of the computer user, with the ultimate goal of controlling thousands of compromised machines. Once hackers install their software, they are capable of controlling the infected computers remotely. After they have compromised enough computers, bot herders have a robot network, or botnet, under their command.

Tech Tips
How can you help fight the botnet battle, and make sure that your PC does not end up under a bot herder’s control? Contributing to the problem is the large number of home users whose computers do not have adequate protection and are easy prey for botnet operators. It is critical that home users install up-to-date firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, in addition to being cautious when going online. If you have been a victim of cyber crime, you can also file a complaint online through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Helpful Homepages
Electronic waste or e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste problems. So before you buy that new PC, think about what to do with the old one. Visit or to find out more about recycling your electronics. The Computer TakeBack Campaign focuses on requiring consumer electronics manufacturers to take responsibility for the life cycle of their products, while Earth 911 offers community-specific environmental information for consumers looking to live more responsibly.
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