A follow-up on the German botnet-center  18.12.09

I’ve written a quick analysis of the recent anti-botnet politics in Germany. Kind crew behind netzpolitik.org has published it on this blockbuster blog. It’s written in German, though, but you could alternatively give Google Translator a moment of embarrassment.

Shadowserver Foundation publishes Conficker botnet stats  16.12.09

This is going to be an interesting experiment in internet security governance. Scientists have argued for years that internet security problems are as much caused by a misalignment of incentives as they are by technological flaws in software and hardware. One obvious recipe to call ISPs for action against botnets is one that has helped to increase software vendors’ activities in increasing software robustness.

Gathered under the umbrella of the Shadowserver Foundation, a group of engineers and scientists have scrupulously gathered evidence and background information about the activities of the Conficker botnet. They have known for months that millions of machines worldwide had been infected with Conficker malware. Yet, no one reacted, only shoulders were shrugged. At govcert.nl in October, many were contemplating how to proceed with Conficker.

Starting today, Shadowserver let’s everyone know where these Conficker-infected machines are. The move is a valuable contribution to increase global transparency about the somewhat obscure botnet problem.

An interesting example from Germany immediately sticks out. 1&1, a big hosting and medium-sized accessed provider, had initiated an internal initiative against botnet-infected customer systems earlier this year. Today, only ten IP addresses and 0% of their routed space are assigned to infected machines. For customers of Deutsche Telekom, which hasn’t announced a similar program, things look worse: 0.1% of all IP addresses or more than 32,000 IP addresses belong to a Conficker-infected machine.

Germany will get a private-public botnet center  9.12.09

Yersterday, press reports about an alleged joint venture of national ISPs and the national IT security agency to build a national botnet center stirred some scepticism and perplexety in Germany. After heise online brougth the news, the hacker association CCC informed that this rather is a hoax.

However, the German national ICT security agency (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, BSI) and the association of the German internet business, eco (Verband der deutschen Internetwirtschaft), have cooperated on botnet issues at least since October 2008.

A workshop on botnets in early February 2009 addressed topics such as data-exchange between ISP regarding information from systems such as honeypots, abuse systems, spam traps (email analysis), DNS analysis, IDS/IAS (anomalie detection) or harmful websites. This information provided by ISPs could then be complemented with external data sources. Given the lack of published data, it is not clear which techniques ISPs actually use to exchange data today.

Another workshop on botnets, obviously organized by eco, took place in early February 2009. One of the speakers was Frank Ackermann, senior legal counsel to eco, who talked about judicial aspects of botnet fighting. According to Ackermann, “ISPs are interested in moderate filtering” of spam. Thus, politics should be discouraged from strict anti-spam regulation.

The programme of another joint eco-BSI workshop, the 7th German Anti Spam Summit mid-September 2009 on conficker, has sessions like “Status Quo central botnet disinfection call center DE” and “Legal Guide on Technical Approaches against Botnets” listed. According to the programme, Dr. Lothar Eßer, Head of Division Internet Security of BSI, also attended this session.

In late November 2009, eco mentioned in a summary of their IGF09 activities that it is going to build a “Botnet Disinfection Center” in a joint effort with BIS and several providers.

So, Germany will get it’s public-private anti-botnet center. According to eco’s press release, eco and BSI will establish a user-support center. ISPs will forward customers with infected machines to a website which provides tools and descriptions for removing malicious software from their machines. In addition, users with infected computers can call a special hotline with experts assisting users in removing harmful software.


Upd. 9.12.; 16.12: changed headline, added the paragraph with eco’s press release; corrected typos

Justice by Slavery? The meanings of crowdsourcing  8.12.09

There are several concepts, partly overlapping, partly different, that are used to describe phenomena that seem to be somewhat similar if not the same: social production, peer production, crowdsourcing, or collaboration. As so often with buzzwords, theses concepts are, if at all, vaguely defined. Take crowdsourcing. Columnists and researchers use it it such different ways, that the definitions in certain aspects are diametric.

Dan Woods had an intersting column on the “Myth of Crowdsourcing” on Forbes online the other day. Best quotes:

Crowdsourcing of political investigation? The problem of web-based ad-hoc collaboration  2.12.09

A couple of days ago, I mentioned Wikileaks‘ scoop of leaking the apparently horrid contracts between the Federal Republic of Germany and Toll Collect, a joint-venture of Daimler-Chrysler, Deutsche Telekom and Cofiroute.

When Germany’s leading webpolitics site netzpolitik.org brought the message (“Toll Collect wird offen”), its leading brain Markus Beckedahl asked his broad and usually helpful audience how, with which tools and techniques some 10,000 pages of contract papers could collaboratively be analyzed to quickly find the rascalities that everyone was expecting to find there. I was split on whether this could work out or not, whether such a task is suited for social ad-hoc collaboration or not.

Back in 2004, I was working with a