Microsoft backs ‘Banning of Infected PCs from the Web’

Scott Charney, a Microsoft Senior Executive, suggested that virus-infect PCs should be quarantined and denied access to the internet.

At the International Security Solutions Europe (ISSE) Conference in Berlin, Charney put forward this approach as a way to address botnets and other malware. The approach works much like a quarantine for infectious diseases would. In a company blog post Charney explains that automatic patches, AV, and firewalls just aren’t enough: “Despite our best efforts, many consumer computers are host to malware or are part of a botnet. “Bots,” networks of compromised computers controlled by hackers, can provide criminals with a relatively easy means to commit identity theft and also lead to much more devastating consequences if used for an attack on critical government infrastructure or financial systems.”

He uses Government schemes to vaccinate/quarantine people in order track and control the spread of infectious diseases as an example of a method that could be applied to PCs and viruses. “Simply put, we need to improve and maintain the health of consumer devices connected to the Internet in order to avoid greater societal risk. To realize this vision, there are steps that can be taken by governments, the IT industry, Internet access providers, users and others to evaluate the health of consumer devices before granting them unfettered access to the Internet or other critical resources.”

The main area of infection that Microsoft want to tackle is the growing army of robot PCs. Botnets are networks of infected PCs that “bot herders” or “bot masters” control. These networks can comprise of thousands and in some cases millions of compromised windows machines. these machines are used to distribute adware, spyware, spam emails and launch DDoS attacks. Microsoft announced earlier in the year that along with industry partners they successfully executed a take down of the waladec spambot. At the time Microsoft also stated that they intended to be “even more creative and aggressive in the fight against botnets and all forms of cybercrime.”

But the post has been met by a some what angry backlash. It seems that some people do not have much confidence in Microsoft’s proposal. With one commenter saying: “If Microsoft isn’t competent enough to make software that is safe, how are they going to be able to make an Internet quarantine that works?”.

From a business perspective I think Microsoft’s proposal is a good one, but implementing and making it an industry standard seems a long way off.

It think that the home user will be at the rough end of this stick, as they will be heavily reliant on ‘walk in’ fix it shops to clean their PCs as ironically most fix infections via the internet in one form or another.

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