iCode flag-bearer defends ISP malware notifications

With all due respect, SANS, the iCode was never meant to be a silver bullet.

Peter Coroneos, the Internet Industry Association's former chief and principal iCode flag-bearer, says it’s unrealistic to expect the ISP-led malware customer notification program to cut infections by half.

Coroneos on Monday defended the initiative in response to a claim by Alan Paller, research director for the US security organisation, the SANS Institute, that malware reductions flowing from Australia's iCode program were "insignificant".

In a response to a US Department of Commerce request for information on whether a similar notification system should be adopted there, Paller said for it to be worthwhile to pursue Australia's iCode would need to show malware reductions of at least 50 per cent.

"We hold the SANS Institute in very high regards but I think that to suggest that the Australian effort is without value is to be assigning a higher expectation to what things of this nature could actually achieve," Coroneos told CSO.com.au.

"The expectation is a little bit unrealistic given the nature of the problem."

"[The iCode] needs to be seen for what it is. It's not holding itself out there to be the solution… It would be miraculous if you could have a reduction in infection rates of over 50 per cent."

It’s unclear exactly what impact the iCode has had, however recent figures by the Australian Media and Communications Authority’s estimate there are around 30,000 infections per day.

One large ISP that Coroneos declined to name was sending 18,000 malware notifications per month, but what matters in terms of getting a reduction is whether recipients respond.

While Coroneos didn’t have those figures, he claimed that anecdotally 80 per cent took action while 20 per cent did nothing.

"We have certainly provided tools for users to remediate their machines, but ultimately it remains up to them to do something about it. It's not up to the ISPs to go and fix their computer," said Coroneos.

"The only way you could get reduction rates of a greater order would be to have a far more significantly resourced program, whether funded by government or whoever, to literally go into people's homes and fix their machines up."

Coroneos conceded that one of the shortcomings of the current iCode arrangement was that there was no requirement on ISPs to submit figures that detailed progress over time -- one of Paller's suggestions in his critique of the iCode, which he also predicted ISPs there would resist.

"I can assure people that in February of next year we will be reconvening the iCode-compliant ISPs to begin work on a second version of the code and I would envisage, as being part of that, we will be looking for ISPs to be providing regular reports with the metrics that people have been asking us for," said Coroneos.

If he can persuade ISPs to begin reporting, Coroneos believes the industry may be able to gather qualitative and quantitative data to investigate why some people respond and others don’t, but as it stands it could be apathy, ineptitude or different appetites for risk.

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Tags malwareInternet Industry Association (IIA)Peter CoroneosiCodeAlan Paller

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