Fighting Bots Is Everybody's Business

05/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Joe Waz President, Altura West LLC in Los Angeles

Every day brings another stunning story about cybercriminals using botnets to hijack and control computers in order to steal data and pull off other online crimes. Last week, Spanish authorities announced they had arrested three men allegedly involved with a "botnet" of nearly 13 million infected computers which were "used to steal financial or personal information from people in at least 190 countries."

As Marty Lindner, principal engineer with Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team, told CNN, "The U.S. doesn't have jurisdiction on the [entire] planet Earth, so even if you can identify the author [of the malicious program], that doesn't give us the legal authority to get him, one, and two, it's not clear he's committing a crime," he said. "It's not illegal to write bad software. It's illegal to use it."

In a new guest post on the Comcast Voices blog, Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, observes, "Reducing the threat of botnets requires action from many parties, including ISPs, law enforcement, and end users." To that list, I'd also add software developers, Internet safety experts and Internet engineers. It's a big job, and the responsibility to take it on is shared by many in the Internet ecosystem.

At Comcast, we're taking a comprehensive approach, using technology and working with our customers to identify and remove bots that may be affecting their broadband experience -- and their privacy and security. We've hired a squad of Internet security experts who look for the patterns that bots leave behind when they take over a computer. For years, we've also make best in class Internet security software part of our service offering. Recently, we started offering Symantec's award-winning Norton Security Suite to our high-speed Internet customers for no additional fee. We've branded our comprehensive approach to Internet security "Constant Guard."

We are also leaders in attacking spam -- one of our leading engineers co-chairs the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group which collaborates globally to deal with the scourge of spam that now constitutes nearly 85 percent of all e-mail traffic.

Every one of us has to be a soldier against spam, bots, and other Internet abuses. While my colleagues at Comcast are putting major resources into the effort and we're having an impact, the job is too big and the ingenuity of global cybercriminals too great. You wouldn't leave your doors unlocked at home -- why would you leave your computer open to the world? Learn what you can do to keep your connection -- and your personal information -- secure. Here are some resources to get you started.