FBI rounds up bot-herders, national security at stake

During the May 2007 Anti-Phishing Working Group Counter eCrime summit in San Francisco, researcher Joe St. Sauver spoke about the need for a government agency to step up and help in the war against consumer computer compromise. He stated that consumers aren't capable of taking the steps necessary to prevent their systems from becoming launching platforms for information theft or attacks against business and national infrastructure (Robert Lemos, "Gov't group needed to keep the Net healthy?" SecurityFocus, 14 June 2007).  It looks like a government agency is getting involved.

The FBI announced this week that a law enforcement effort named Operation Bot Roast has been responsible for identifying and bringing charges against three bot-herders in the United States. Along with the arrests, agents identified about a million bot-infested computers (Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Operation: Bot Roast," 13 June 2007). According to the FBI, Operation Bot Roast was launched "...because the national security implications of the growing botnet threat are broad."

To help consumers keep their PCs safe, the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center have teamed up to create the Internet Crime Complaint CenterIn addition to tips about how to protect computers from cybercriminals, consumers who believe they have been -- or are -- the victims of Internet crime can report it at the site.

This looks like a great start, but the FBI's reach is limited. In my opinion, the majority of Internet incidents involving national security originate in other countries. These countries, such as China, are typically resistant to outside interference in internal affairs. This is especially true when the government itself is likely a perpetrator.  (See "The growing threat of cyberwarfare.") 

In addition to identifying systems that have already been infected, I believe the government must work with private industry and consumers to block the creation and use of bot armies in the first place. This will help prevent offshore attempts to compromise our national infrastructure.  Failure to do so will cause us to increasingly rely on the clemency of governments -- which are perfecting their ability to conduct cyberwarfare -- for our economic welfare.