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German ISPs team up with gov agency to clean up malware

Although anti-botnet offensive panned by critics

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The German government is planning to establish a botnet cleanup helpline for computer users affected by malware infection.

ISPs are teaming up with the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) to set up an operation geared towards cleansing consumer systems from botnet infestation. ISPs will track down infected machines, before directing users towards a website offering advice and an associated call centre, staffed by around 40.

The project, due to start in 2010, was announced on Tuesday at the German IT summit in Stuttgart. No funding details were provided.

A statement by eco (a German Internet Industry Association), explains that the project aims to take Germany out of the top 10 countries harbouring the highest number of malware infected systems. Germany currently ranks third on this list of shame.

The overall scheme is similar to recently announced draft plans by Australian Internet Industry Association (IIA) to purge systems of botnet infections. Meanwhile, over in the US, Comcast announced a browser-based virus infection notification service back in October. The service is linked to a security portal offering security software from McAfee and others at no extra charge to customers of Comcast's broadband services.

Malware in general, and botnets in particular, are a Windows ecosystem problem. Some bloggers have taken exception to the German plan, and have described it as a state funded subsidy to Microsoft, arguing that the money would be better spent offering advice on how to switch to less virus-infected systems. Such a change (desirable or not) is hardly likely to happen overnight and anything that improves internet hygiene in the meantime is welcome.

The success of the German scheme is likely to be closely monitored by ISPs across the world. ®

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