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ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster




ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster
ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster



http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/10/isps_ignore_strorm_worm_and_other_malware/ 

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
10th September 2007

Several weeks ago, security researcher Lawrence Baldwin dispatched an 
urgent email to abuse handlers at OptimumOnline, the broadband provider 
owned by Cablevision, warning that one of its customers stood to lose 
more than $60,000 to cyber crooks.

"He's got a keylogger on his system . . . below is a log of the 
miscreant viewing the info that was logged from his system while 
accessing his [Bank of America] accounts," Baldwin's email read. "Looks 
like he's got nearly $60K in there, so a lot at stake. Can you get 
someone to phone me that might be able to establish contact with this 
customer?"

The email, which was addressed to a specific handler's email address and 
was also copied to OptimumOnline's abuse desk, went on to provide the 
user's IP address and enough specifics to suggest Baldwin's claim of a 
keylogger was probably accurate. Yet, more than three weeks later, 
Baldwin still hasn't heard back from the company.

"Normally, I don't bother because I think this is going to be a complete 
waste of time," says Baldwin, who is chief forensics officer for 
myNetWatchman.com. "The abuse and security department at an ISP is the 
bastard step-child component of a service provider. In some sense, 
they're doomed to failure by design."


Absentee Landlords

Talk to anyone who makes a living sniffing out online fraud, and you'll 
hear the same story over and over. Researcher uncovers the source of a 
massive amount of spam, identifies an IP address that is part of a 
botnet or stumbles upon a phishing site that's spoofing a trusted online 
brand. Researcher dutifully reports the incident to the internet service 
provider whose network is being used, only to find the bad behavior 
continues unabated for days, weeks and even months.

A lack of engagement from ISPs is nothing new, but it has continued even 
as the malware scourge makes steady gains.

No one really knows exactly how many infected PCs are out there, but 
just about everyone agrees the number is high and growing. Accepting 
even conservative estimates that 10 percent of machines are part of a 
botnet means that tens of millions of systems are actively sending spam, 
launching denial-of-service attacks, and spewing all sorts of other 
malicious traffic across networks owned by the world's biggest ISPs.

According to figures from researcher Peter Gutmann, the Storm Worm alone 
is believed to comprise from 1m to 10m CPUs, creating one of the world's 
most powerful computers.

"This may be the first time that a top 10 supercomputer has been 
controlled not by a government or mega-corporation but by criminals," 
Gutmann says.

To be fair, legal liability and economic realities sometimes make it 
hard for ISPs to respond to the threat in a meaningful way. But in light 
of the surging malware problem, their frequent inaction looks more and 
more like complicity.

Although some ISPs are more active than others in policing their 
networks, absentee abuse departments and a lack of enforcement seems to 
be the rule. The Register spent several weeks calling ISPs large and 
small, including Comcast, OpimumOnline, Verizon, Earthlink and Road 
Runner. Many didn't bother to return our repeated calls. And all 
declined our requests for an interview with a member of their security 
team to discuss what steps they take to ensure their networks are not 
used as a launch pad for computer attacks.

[...]


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