Internet security has become an ever increasing problem for individual users, as well as corporations, around the world. Between dodging viruses, hackers, malware, credit card fraud, phishing and identity theft, we spend as much time protecting our machines and personal lives as we do actually completing productive work.
The United States government has been looking for ways to protect the millions of computers in this country for quite some time, and a solution may be near. The government is reviewing an Australian program that will allow Internet service providers to alert customers if their computers are taken over by unauthorized means such as botnets.
A botnet is a network of infected computers controlled by hackers, either automatically or manually, and used to shutdown targeted websites, distribute malicious code or spread spam and viruses. The result being an exponential number of computers being infected and creating a vicious cycle.
The U.S. government knows that the public values their privacy and therefore is stopping short of implementing the most ambitious part of the Australian plan. Internet service providers down under will have the ability to not only notify users of their infected computers, but limit or prohibit users from accessing the internet. James Lewis, United States Cybersecurity expert emphasizes that, “providers are nervous about any increase in regulations as well as consumer reaction to monitoring, or other security measures.”
One problem that I see in walling off infected users, is once the user is cut off from the internet is how would they research how to fix the issue or update their anti-virus software. Will the government have repair shops to analyze peoples infected computers or will users be held hostage by the like of computer repair organizations such as the Geek Squad in Best Buy and other retail establishments?
In fact, Comcast is expanding a pilot program in the Denver area that alerts customers whose computers have been controlled by a botnet. Cathy Avgiris, Senior Vice President of Comcast, states the carrier provides free antivirus software and other assistance to clean malware off the machine once discovered. The Comcast program does not require users to cure their computer problems, nor does the company limit online usage if not alleviated. The Comcast program will roll out nationally in the first quarter of 2011.
If you are enraged at the Comcast plan, ponder that Australian Internet providers will have the power to restrict outbound email or quarantine infected machines if the problems are not remedied.
Where do you stand on this issue? Should Internet service providers have more control over the internet than they already do? They already have the ability to throttle your connection without out being aware. Where will the control stop?