DHS, Commerce release cyber report on combating botnets

DHS, Commerce release cyber report on combating botnets
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The Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday released a joint report detailing how the federal government can combat botnets, or networks of infected internet-connected devices that can be leveraged by malicious hackers.

The latest report largely resembles the draft report issued by the two federal agencies in January, which gave experts from the cybersecurity industry as well as other stakeholders the opportunity weigh in on their findings before releasing the final report. 

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The report listed six principal themes for reducing distributed threats, including working closely with international partners; utilizing tools that are readily available but not being used effectively; ensuring devices are secured through all stages of their "lifecycle;" boosting education and awareness about botnets; and changing market incentives to encourage security over speedy production output.

Countering botnets, the report says, is both an industry-wide challenge and a global issue that will require stakeholders to work together to block such attacks.

Commerce and DHS then provided five "mutually supportive goals" to help decrease the risk of botnet attacks.

This includes creating "an adaptable, sustainable, and secure technology marketplace," encouraging innovation that will morph how the government combats these attacks as the threats evolve, building up coalitions across the "security, infrastructure, and operational technology communities" in the U.S. and abroad, and boosting awareness and education about the threats.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE signed an executive order last May directing Commerce and Homeland Security to issue a report about combating botnets and other automated and distributed attacks, setting the deadline for May 11 — exactly one year after he issued the order.

The report, which came more than two weeks after the deadline, aimed to “identify and promote action by appropriate stakeholders to improve the resilience of the internet and communications ecosystem and to encourage collaboration with the goal of dramatically reducing threats perpetrated by automated and distributed attacks,” according to the executive order.

Agencies had to follow the National Institute of Standards and Technology framework, a set of flexible guidelines developed so other organizations could adopt them.

The cybersecurity community is largely happy with the report, which was done with the consultation of other government agencies like the Departments of Defense, Justice and State, as well as the FBI.

The report also comes just one week after the FBI issued a formal warning about a sophisticated Russia-linked botnet that has infected hundreds of thousands of home network devices worldwide.

The law enforcement agency said foreign cyber actors are targeting routers in small or home offices with a botnet known as VPNFilter, advising owners to reboot these devices in an attempt to disrupt the malicious software.

Cybersecurity experts and officials say VPNFilter has infected an estimated 500,000 devices worldwide.

The release of the report comes shortly after the White House Office of Management and Budget released its own report last week that found a majority, roughly three-fourths, of federal agencies are not properly equipped to combat cyber attacks against their networks. These agencies' cybersecurity programs were listed as either "at risk or high risk."