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White House summit on botnet combat held

Molly Wood May 31, 2012

When a bunch of important people meet at the White House to discuss a problem, chances are the problem is pretty big.

Such is the case with botnets, the subject of a White House summit yesterday. Botnets are series of computers that are infected without their owners knowing it. Those computers, possibly your computer, are then used to send spam, relay stolen data — all sorts of bad stuff.

Declan McCullagh writes for CNET and has this news about the war against botnets.

Declan McCullagh: It’s not good. The criminals, and there really are criminals behind this, are getting smarter, botnet software is getting better at hiding from the good guys, and so this is an uphill battle. It’s probably something that we’ll never eradicate, but we’ll just learn to live with and people will get better at deleting it from their computers, really getting rid of the stuff.

Moe: What was the big take away from the summit?

McCullagh: It’s financial service companies – these are banks, credit card providers that are going to talk more with Microsoft, they’re going to talk more with Apple, they’re going to talk more with Comcast and AT&T because everyone has a stake in trying to make sure computers aren’t infected with bad software.

Once these Corporate Internet Superfriends team up, they would be able to spot problems more effectively, says Allan Friedman of Brookings. “The Internet Service Providers are working together to detect a botnet — gosh, this small grandmother who only uses her computer to check her church website every two weeks has suddenly started to send a whole bunch of data to a random machine in Bulgaria, maybe we should look into that: Is the sort of thing that we can detect and you can do that in an automated fashion.”

So corporate bigwigs meet at the White House about this. Government and private industry.

But Chris Hoofnagle of Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology says you and me play a large role in fighting botnets. “The government has finally caught on to the idea that much of the problem resides in the private sector, but the private sector doesn’t want to clamp down too hard on its users. I mean, just imagine if your ISP started to annoy you about the security settings of your computer, you might try a different ISP or all those security settings might get in the way of you using the Internet, and then all of a sudden, you know, the Internet is no good for you. So, there is this balance between accepting responsibility for how one uses the Internet and ease of use.”

Good luck. Update your software.


Here to discuss recent developments at Apple, our regular expert on Apple, Siri, the personal assistant from the iPhone 4S.

Moe: Hi Siri.

Siri: I didn’t find any meetings.

Moe: I didn’t ask you for any meetings. I was just saying hello.

Siri: Hello.

Moe: Apple’s CEO Tim Cook says TV is an area of intense interest for the company, but in a recent interview, he said there was no imminent launch of an Apple television set, despite a lot of rumors that it’s on the way. Siri, is Apple making a TV?

Siri: I haven’t a clue.

Moe: Oh, that’s how it’s going to be. OK, let’s move on. Next item. Some photos have leaked online of what looks like a case for a new iPhone, but with a much bigger screen. Siri, will the iPhone 5 be bigger?

Siri: There’s no iPhone number for Will Ferrell in your contacts.

Moe: Wait, who’s talking about Will Ferrell.

Siri: Checking on that for you. OK. How about a web search for who’s talking about Will Ferrell?

Moe: No no. Forget it. OK, last thing. Tim Cook also says that he wants to use you, Siri, in more Apple products. Siri, where are you going next?

Siri: Wherever you are. That’s where I am.

Moe: OK. Fine. Goodbye, Siri.

Siri: Bye.

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