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Liz McMillan

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New ISP Guidelines for Restoring Infected Machines

Bots, or malware running on users' computers without their knowledge, are responsible for generating up to 90 percent of spam

With the growing problem of bot infestations contributing to spam, identity theft and online fraud, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) has issued the first best practices aimed at helping the global ISP industry work more closely with consumers to recognize and remove bot infections on end-users' machines. The paper outlines a three-step approach with recommendations for detecting bots, notifying users that their computers have been compromised, and guiding them in removing the malware.

Bots, or malware running on users' computers without their knowledge, are responsible for generating up to 90 percent of spam and can also be used to steal personal information or take part in DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. MAAWG Common Best Practices for Mitigating Large Scale Bot Infections in Residential Networks (Version 1.0) outlines strategies used by some of the largest ISPs worldwide yet was developed to be scalable for smaller network operators and to consider legal and process differences among countries.

"Bots are a global affliction and these best practices are an important step in educating the industry on the appropriate processes to help protect consumers. We're sharing the experiences of our global membership so that network operators everywhere can more aggressively tackle this problem. As an industry, we are becoming more proactive in alerting customers when bots are detected on their computers and in helping users remove the malware before it can harm them," said MAAWG Chairman Michael O'Reirdan.

The new best practices outline various options for alerting customers when their computers are infected and has suggestions for helping end-users clean their systems. The paper discusses bot detection methods, customer notification, and the use of walled gardens to limit infected machines' exposure to the Internet. Among the recommendations:

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