Internet users in Germany now have a contact point for receiving help with malicious software that allows multiple computers to be controlled remotely.
German Internet industry statistics say that one out of seven Internet-connected computers in Germany are part of a botnet
The Anti-Botnet Beratungszentrum, or the Anti-Botnet Advice Center, was launched at an anti-spam conference in Wiesbaden, Germany this week.
The center will be a new way to help computer users escape botnets - groups of malware-infected computers that can be controlled and exploited by a remote third party.
"The main goal is to remove Germany from the top 10 ranking of countries from which botnet activities originate," according to a document about the project published late last year on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's website.
When expanded successfully, botnets can comprise thousands or millions of so-called zombie computers that are under the control of an attacker. They can be used for infecting further computers, sending spam, conducting criminal activity and launching cyber-attacks.
Generally speaking, botnets only affect computers with the Microsoft Windows operating system. Linux and Mac OS computers are rarely infected.
According to industry statistics, every seventh German computer connected to the Internet is currently part of a botnet, with its user often unaware of the situation.
Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's interior minister, in a statement, described the problem as "the greatest current danger for the Internet."
The center will have a budget of two million euros annually
Various types of assistance
The Anti-Botnet Beratungszentrum offers help via email or by phone. The center's website, www.botfrei.de, contains instructions on how to free an affected computer from a botnet, as well as useful software.
The 2 million euro project is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and technically by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Several internet providers, such as Deutsche Telekom, are also involved.
In the future, the participating Internet providers will automatically notify their clients by email or post if their computers are infected with malware.
De Maziere is encouraging non-participating providers to join the project, but he also emphasizes that affected Internet users need to “take their share of responsibility” and take advantage of the assistance offered by the help center.
Author: Eva Wutke (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Cyrus Farivar