US ISPs commit to new cybersecurity measures

The recommendations from an FCC advisory committee target botnets, domain name fraud and Internet route hijacking

A group of U.S. Internet service providers, including the four largest, have committed to taking new steps to combat three major cybersecurity threats, based on recommendations from a U.S. Federal Communications Commission advisory committee.

The ISPs, including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications, committed Thursday to implement measures to fight botnets, domain name fraud and Internet route hijacking. The FCC's Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) adopted the recommendations for voluntary action by ISPs the same day.

Eight wired and wireless ISPs, representing about 80 percent of the broadband subscribers in the U.S., are members of CSRIC and signed on to the recommendations.

"These actions will have a significant positive impact on Internet security," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. "If you own a PC, you'll be significantly better protected against your computer [being] taken over by a bad actor, who could destroy your private files or steal your personal information. If you shop or bank online, you'll be significantly better protected against being directed to an illegitimate website and having your credit card number stolen."

The recommendations preserve the open architecture of the Internet and protect Internet users' privacy, Genachowski said.

The CSRIC recommendations embraced by the ISPs include an antibot code of conduct. ISPs agreed to educate customers about botnets and to take steps to identify botnet activity on their networks. ISPs will also warn customers about botnet infections on their computers and offer assistance to customers with compromised computers, under the code of conduct.

The ISPs also committed to implement a set of best practices to secure the Internet's Domain Name System by implementing DNSSEC, a set of secure protocol extensions designed to prevent DNS spoofing.

CSRIC also recommended that the Internet industry develop an Internet Protocol-route highjacking framework, including new technologies and practices to limit the number of times that Internet traffic is misdirected.

T-Mobile USA, one of the ISPs signing on to the recommendations, called cybersecurity an "extremely important issue." The company supports voluntary, industrywide deployment of DNSSEC, T-Mobile said in a statement.

ISPs will need help from other Internet companies to implement the security measures, said Bob Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs.

"DNSSEC is predicated upon a chain of trust across the Internet," he wrote in a blog post. "[CSRIC] recommends that key industry segments such as banking, healthcare and others sign their respective domains and that software developers, such as web-browser developers, study how and when to incorporate DNSSEC validation functions into their software."

The botnet recommendations see a "significant role" for other companies, including security software vendors and operating system developers, he added. "Keeping the Internet safe for consumers to browse, transact business and communicate is an important objective not only for AT&T but any other business that operates online," he wrote.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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