By Frederick Lane
In our interview regarding Operation Bot Roast with Deputy Assistant
Director Shawn Henry of the FBI's Cyber Division, Henry emphasized that
consumers need to take the botnet problem seriously and take the basic
steps needed to protect their computers. The FBI singled out Microsoft
for its work on solving the botherder issue, along with the Botnet Task
The global nature of the Internet is posing new challenges to law
enforcement agencies like the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. In
response, the FBI is reaching out to new partners, both in the private
sector and in the international community, to help fight online identity
thieves, computer hijackers, and other digital desperadoes known as
"botherders." The ongoing effort has been dubbed "Operation Bot Roast."
The problem begins when criminal botherders use "botnets" to take remote
command and control of other people's computers. The FBI reports that
most owners of the compromised computers don't even know their computers
are being used to facilitate other crimes, such as denial of service
attacks, phishing, click fraud, identity theft, and the mass
distribution of spam and spyware. Because of their widely distributed
capabilities, the FBI says, botnets are a growing threat to national
security , as well as the national information infrastructure , and our
economy as a whole.
In a telephone interview with us on Thursday, following announcement
of the FBI's preliminary results in Operation Bot Roast, Deputy
Assistant Director Shawn Henry of the FBI's Cyber Division stressed
the value of the high-tech partnerships.
"The FBI has been very pleased and appreciative of the cooperation and
assistance that it has received from private companies during
Operation Bot Roast," Henry said. "This is an issue that affects them
as well, and they have been very helpful."
Henry added that the FBI had received extensive cross-border
cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries, both for
investigations that originated in the United States, and those
Global Problem, New Partners
Because of the global nature of the Internet, Henry said, no country
or company is immune from the risks posed by botherders and other
types of hackers. As a result, companies and governments that might
otherwise be reluctant to work together are finding ways to
"There's another ongoing investigation," Henry said, "the details of
which I can't discuss right now, that has led a number of business
competitors to share information and data with the FBI and each other
in an effort to respond to a particular threat they are all facing."
In its press release yesterday, the FBI singled out Microsoft for its
work on the botherder issue, along with the Botnet Task Force, an
international private-public partnership launched by Microsoft in
2004. In another sign of the growing level of international
cooperation on this issue, the Botnet Task Force is now working with
Interpol to train law enforcement agents in the field.
Plea for Personal Responsibility
Henry reiterated that one of the chief reasons that the FBI announced
its preliminary results was to raise the public profile of the botnet
issue, and encourage people to take the basic steps needed to protect
their computers: antivirus software, firewalls, strong passwords, and
good e-mail and download behavior.
"This is an issue that individuals need to take seriously," Henry
said, "because a lot of consumers don't realize that their computer
can be or has been hijacked and is doing harm to someone else. It's
not enough to simply bring the computer home and start surfing the
Internet. Consumers have to learn how to protect their computers and
make sure that their software is up to date."