[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 183 (Wednesday, September 21, 2011)]
[Pages 58466-58469]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-24180]



National Institute of Standards and Technology

National Telecommunications and Information Administration


[Docket No. 110829543-1541-01]

Models To Advance Voluntary Corporate Notification to Consumers 
Regarding the Illicit Use of Computer Equipment by Botnets and Related 

AGENCIES: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of

[[Page 58467]]

Standards and Technology; U.S. Department of Commerce, National 
Telecommunications and Information Administration; and U.S. Department 
of Homeland Security, National Protection and Programs Directorate.

ACTION: Request for Information.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of 
Homeland Security are requesting information on the requirements of, 
and possible approaches to creating, a voluntary industry code of 
conduct to address the detection, notification and mitigation of 
botnets.\1\ Over the past several years, botnets have increasingly put 
computer owners at risk. A botnet infection can lead to the monitoring 
of a consumer's personal information and communication, and 
exploitation of that consumer's computing power and Internet access. 
Networks of these compromised computers are often used to disseminate 
spam, to store and transfer illegal content, and to attack the servers 
of government and private entities with massive, distributed denial of 
service attacks. The Departments seek public comment from all Internet 
stakeholders, including the commercial, academic, and civil society 
sectors, on potential models for detection, notification, prevention, 
and mitigation of botnets' illicit use of computer equipment.

    \1\ Botnets are collections of compromised computers that are 
remotely controlled by a malevolent party, as defined by the 
National Research Council's Committee on Improving Cybersecurity 
Research in the United States, Toward a Safer and More Secure 
Cyberspace, at 40 (2007).

DATES: Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. EDT, November 4, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted by mail to the National 
Institute of Standards and Technology at the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 4822, Washington, DC 
20230. Submissions may be in any of the following formats: HTML, ASCII, 
Word, rtf, or pdf. Online submissions in electronic form may be sent to 
[email protected]. Paper submissions should include a 
compact disc (CD). CDs should be labeled with the name and 
organizational affiliation of the filer and the name of the word 
processing program used to create the document. Comments will be posted 
at http://www.nist.gov/itl/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon Boyens, National Institute of 
Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 8930, 
Gaithersburg, MD 20899, [email protected]. Please direct media 
inquires to NIST's Office of Public Affairs at (301) 975-NIST.



    The U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) recently issued a 
``Green Paper'' \2\ that suggests that voluntary codes of conduct \3\ 
developed through a multi-stakeholder process can significantly advance 
efforts to protect the Internet from the growing security threats. One 
of the policy recommendations put forth was for Commerce to expand its 
role of working with multiple stakeholders to facilitate and promote 
the use of voluntary codes of conduct. Though the responses to the 
Green Paper are still being analyzed, it is clear that this 
facilitating role in the area of codes of conduct is seen as vital to 
advancing industry efforts in specific areas.

    \2\ See, e.g., Cybersecurity, Innovation and the Internet 
Economy at http://www.nist.gov/itl/upload/Cybersecurity_Green-Paper_FinalVersion.pdf.
    \3\ A Code of Conduct in business is typically a written set of 
industry-wide voluntary practices designed to spur a community to 
operate in a uniform and predictable manner.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has played an 
essential role in building cybersecurity educational programs for 
consumers. DHS's educational programs emphasize that every Internet 
consumer has a role to play in securing cyberspace and in ensuring the 
safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities online. DHS has 
a variety of outreach programs; most notable from a consumer 
perspective are the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and 
Campaign. Each October DHS hosts events to encourage consumers to 
follow a few simple steps to keep themselves safe online. The Awareness 
Campaign ``Stop. Think. Connect.'' is a year-round program that helps 
consumers become more aware of growing threats and arms them with tools 
to protect themselves.
    While security risks on the Internet exist in many areas, one 
current widely exploited threat comes from `botnets.' Through this 
Request for Information and any follow-on work, the two Departments aim 
to reduce the harm that botnets inflict on the nation's computing 
    To build a botnet, intruders exploit security flaws in the hardware 
and/or software used by individual consumers, and they install 
malicious software that connects the consumer's computer into a 
remotely controlled network of many computers. Once compromised, the 
owners of these computers are put at risk. Criminals have the ability 
to access personal information stored on the computer and 
communications made with the computer. Criminals can exploit this 
information for identity theft, privacy violations, and other crimes, 
as well as utilize the impacted users' computing power and Internet 
access. Networks of these compromised computers are often used to 
disseminate spam, store and transfer illegal content, and attack the 
servers of government and private entities with distributed denial of 
service attacks. Researchers suggest an average of about 4 million new 
botnet infections occur every month.\4\

    \4\ See, McAfee Quarterly Threat Report 2nd Quarter 2011: http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-quarterly-threat-q2-2011.pdf.

    The Departments are concerned about the potential economic impact 
of botnets and the problems they cause to computer systems, businesses, 
and consumers. To address these problems, it is necessary to stop 
botnets from propagating and to remove or mitigate the malicious 
software (malware) where installed. Companies and consumers may be able 
to voluntarily address some of these issues, but to fully address the 
problem, they will need to work together to clean and better protect 
computers. This will require voluntary efforts on many fronts, 
including better standards and procedures to secure systems.
    One strategy that security experts suggest has been successful in 
stemming the tide of botnets has been for private sector entities to 
voluntarily and timely detect and notify end-users that their machines 
have been infected. This voluntary notification has mostly, though not 
always, come from the user's Internet Service Provider (ISP), which has 
contact information for the end-user and a pre-existing relationship. 
Once a service provider has detected a likely end-user security 
problem, it can inform the Internet user of the steps the user can take 
to address the problem. For example, last year in Australia, the 
Internet Industry Association in conjunction with the Minister for 
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy launched a voluntary 
code of practice for Australian ISPs to ensure consistent notification 
and remediation of consumer computer problems created by botnets. Once 
notified of a botnet infection, the consumer is sent to a website with 
information to help clean up his or her

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computer.\5\ Germany \6\ and Japan \7\ have begun similar efforts. 
Several U.S. companies seem to be engaged in similar types of 
practices, though without a code of conduct in place, and standards 
organizations \8\ have been discussing standards for botnet detection. 
Last December the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC's) 
Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council 
(CSRIC) Working Group (WG) 8 recommended 24 Best Practices to address 
botnet protection for end-users as well as for the network.\9\ The Best 
Practices cover several areas including prevention, detection, 
notification and mitigation, and identified means to address 
externalities such as privacy concerns. The Best Practices identified 
are primarily for use by ISPs that provide direct service to end-users 
on residential broadband networks. However, they may apply to other 
end-users and networks as well. The Internet Engineering Task Force 
also has developed a draft ``Recommendation for the Remediation of Bots 
in ISP Networks.'' \10\

    \5\ See, the icode Web site: http://icode.net.au. This is the 
site used for notification. It also has links to historical 
information about its founding.
    \6\ See, Anti-Botnet Advisory Center: https://www.botfrei.de/en/index.html.
    \7\ See, Cyber Clean Center: https://www.ccc.go.jp/en_ccc/.
    \8\ See, e.g., IETF related Best Current Practice: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-opsec-current-practices-07#section-2.8.
    \9\ See, e.g., Internet Service Provider (ISP) Network 
Protection Practices at http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/docs/csric/CSRIC_WG8_FINAL_REPORT_ISP_NETWORK_PROTECTION_20101213.pdf. 
The FCC has announced the creation of a new Working Group under the 
auspices of the reconstituted CSRIC. As we move forward with this 
process, we will coordinate with stakeholders and the nation's 
independent telecommunications regulator to ensure that we are not 
duplicating any efforts for industry or government.
    \10\ See http://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-oreirdan-mody-bot-remediation-03.html.

Incentives and Voluntary Approaches

    To promote voluntary best practices in botnet detection, 
notification and mitigation, one suggestion has been to provide 
companies that take action with certain types of liability protection 
in order to foster greater marketplace certainty. Another suggestion is 
to encourage ISPs to send consumer support queries to a centralized 
consumer resource center that could be supported by a wide number of 
players.\11\ Such a resource center could reduce the burden on 
corporate customer support centers by pooling resources. The center 
could aid consumers by, for example, providing certain no-cost means of 
support, as well as information on other means for expedited support. 
This center could also be used to facilitate information sharing and 
research that could lead to better botnet detection. Moreover, as a 
``condition of sponsorship'' private sector entities could be required 
to adopt an agreed upon set of practices.

    \11\ See, e.g., Maxim Weinstein, Stop Badware Comments to the 
Department of Commerce Cybersecurity Green Paper, July 29, 2011 at 
http:// www.nist.gov/itl/upload/StopBadware_response-to-DOC-Cybersecurity-Green-Paper.pdf.

    There are many different ways that such a resource center could be 
created, including some that help encourage innovation in preventative 
security models and/or directly aid consumers in cleaning their 
machines. Below are three very broad scenarios proposed to help focus 
comment on possible voluntary approaches:
    A. Private-Sector Run and Supported--Under this scenario, the 
private sector would create, run, and fund a resource center to inform 
and educate consumers who have been notified that their equipment may 
be infected by a botnet. This service could be run by a new or existing 
non-profit or for-profit entity depending on the needs and the model 
    B. Public/Private Partnership--Under this scenario, the government 
and private sector would work together to create a resource to inform 
and educate consumers who have been notified that their equipment may 
be infected by a botnet. These services could be provided through a 
non-profit or quasi-governmental entity depending on the needs and the 
model created.
    C. Government Run and Supported--Under this scenario, the 
government would create a centralized resource to inform and educate 
consumers who have been notified that their equipment may be infected 
by a botnet. These centralized services would be provided by a 
government agency with some substantive input from the private sector, 
perhaps through a Federal Advisory Committee.
    Request for Information. Recognizing the seriousness of the threat 
from, and potential harm caused by, botnets, Commerce and DHS are 
issuing this Request for Information to solicit information on: the 
need for a voluntary code of conduct for consumer notifications on 
botnets; how private entities might help prevent and identify botnets 
and certain types of malware on systems and networks; how to mitigate 
and notify users about botnets--on systems and networks; how to help 
promote incentives for companies to participate in voluntary 
notification efforts; and how to help build related resources in the 
United States for ISPs or other entities to notify consumers.
    The questions below are to assist in framing the issues and should 
not be construed as a limitation on comments. The Departments invite 
comment on the full range of issues that may be presented by this 
Request for Information. Comments that contain references, studies, 
research and other empirical data that are not widely published should 
include copies of the referenced materials with the submitted comments.

A. General Questions on Practices To Help Prevent and Mitigate Botnet 

    (1) What existing practices are most effective in helping to 
identify and mitigate botnet infections? Where have these practices 
been effective? Please provide specific details as to why or why not.
    (2) What preventative measures are most effective in stopping 
botnet infections before they happen? Where have these practices been 
effective? Please provide specific details as to why or why not.
    (3) Are there benefits to developing and standardizing these 
practices for companies and consumers through some kind of code of 
conduct or otherwise? If so, why and how? If not, why not?
    (4) Please identify existing practices that could be implemented 
more broadly to help prevent and mitigate botnet infections.
    (5) What existing mechanisms could be effective in sharing 
information about botnets that would help prevent, detect, and mitigate 
botnet infections?
    (6) What new and existing data can ISPs and other network defense 
players share to improve botnet mitigation and situational awareness? 
What are the roadblocks to sharing this data?
    (7) Upon discovering that a consumer's computer or device is likely 
infected by a botnet, should an ISP or other private entity be 
encouraged to contact the consumer to offer online support services for 
the prevention and mitigation of botnets? If so, how could support 
services be made available? If not, why not?
    (8) What should customer support in this context look like (e.g., 
web information, web chat, telephone support, remote access assistance, 
sending a technician, etc.) and why?
    (9) Describe scalable measures parties have taken against botnets. 
Which scalable measures have the most impact in combating botnets? What 
evidence is available or necessary to measure the impact against 
botnets? What are the

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challenges of undertaking such measures?

B. Effective Practices for Identifying Botnets

    (10) When identifying botnets, how can those engaged in voluntary 
efforts use methods, processes and tools that maintain the privacy of 
consumers' personally identifiable information?
    (11) How can organizations best avoid ``false positives'' in the 
detection of botnets (i.e., detection of behavior that seems to be a 
botnet or malware-related, but is not)?
    (12) To date, many efforts have focused on the role of ISPs in 
detecting and notifying consumers about botnets. It has been suggested 
that other entities beyond ISPs (such as operating system vendors, 
search engines, security software vendors, etc.) can participate in 
anti-botnet related efforts. Should voluntary efforts focus only on 
ISPs? If not, why not? If so, why and who else should participate in 
this role?

C. Reviewing Effectiveness of Consumer Notification

    (13) What baselines are available to understand the spread and 
negative impact of botnets and related malware? How can it be 
determined if practices to curb botnet infections are making a 
    (14) What means of notification would be most effective from an 
end-user perspective?
    (15) Should notices, and/or the process by which they are 
delivered, be standardized? If so, by whom? Will this assist in 
ensuring end-user trust of the notification? Will it prevent fraudulent 
    (16) For those companies that currently offer mitigation services, 
how do different pricing strategies affect consumer response? Are free 
services generally effective in both cleaning computers and preventing 
re-infection? Are fee-based services more attractive to certain 
customer segments?
    (17) What impact would a consumer resource center, such as one of 
those described above, have on value-added security services? Could 
offers for value-added services be included in a notification? If not, 
why not? If so, why and how? Also, how can fraudulent offers be 
prevented in this context?
    (18) Once a botnet infection has been identified and the end-user 
does not respond to notification or follow up on mitigating measures, 
what other steps should the private sector consider? What type of 
consent should the provider obtain from the end-user? Who should be 
responsible for considering and determining further steps?
    (19) Are private entities declining to act to prevent or mitigate 
botnets because of concerns that, for example, they may be liable to 
customers who are not notified? If so, how can those concerns be 

Best Practices for Consumer Notification

    (20) Countries such as Japan, Germany, and Australia have developed 
various best practices, codes of conduct, and mitigation techniques to 
help consumers. Have these efforts been effective? What lessons can be 
learned from these and related efforts?
    (21) Are there best practices in place, or proposed practices, to 
measure the effectiveness of notice and educational messages to 
consumers on botnet infection and remediation?

D. Incentives To Promote Voluntary Action To Notify Consumers

    (22) Should companies have liability protections for notifying 
consumers that their devices have been infected by botnets? If so, why 
and what protections would be most effective in incentivizing 
notification? If not, why not? Are there other liability issues that 
should be examined?
    (23) What is the state-of-practice with respect to helping end-
users clean up their devices after a botnet infection? Are the 
approaches effective, or do end-users quickly get re-infected?
    (24) What agreements with end-users may need modification to 
support a voluntary code of conduct?
    (25) Of the consumer resource scenarios described above, which 
would be most effective at providing incentives for entities to 
participate? Are there other reasons to consider one of these 
approaches over the others?
    (26) If a private sector approach were taken, would a new entity be 
necessary to run this project? Who should take leadership roles? Are 
the positive incentives involved (cost savings, revenue opportunity, 
etc.) great enough to persuade organizations to opt into this model?
    (27) If a public/private partnership approach were taken, what 
would be an appropriate governance model? What stakeholders should be 
active participants in such a voluntary program? What government 
agencies should participate? How could government agencies best 
contribute resources in such a partnership?
    (28) If a government-run approach were taken, what government 
agencies should play leading roles?
    (29) Are there other approaches aside from the three scenarios 
suggested above that could be used to create a consumer resource and to 
incentivize detection, notification, and mitigation of botnets?
    (30) Are there other positive incentives that do not involve 
creation of an organized consumer resource that could encourage 
voluntary market-based action in detection, notification, and 
mitigation of botnets?

Willie E. May,
Associate Director for Laboratory Programs/Principal Deputy, Department 
of Commerce.
Lawrence E. Strickling,
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of 
Rand Beers,
Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, 
Department of Homeland Security.
[FR Doc. 2011-24180 Filed 9-20-11; 8:45 am]