FBI Campaign Combats Malicious Attacks with New 'G-man' Lexicon

If anything's been lacking in US government agencies' ongoing fight against malicious Internet use, it's a good, old-fashioned public awareness campaign. Yesterday, in an effort to turn up the volume and give local TV news writers a more tangible vocabulary for malicious users, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced interim results of its ongoing efforts to track down and arrest suspected "bot-herders."

It's a term that may have appeared only once before in BetaNews: Essentially, it refers to malicious users who deploy payloads on remote computers that can then unleash attacks - whether by programming or through accepted instructions from a central source - upon targeted systems.

By any other name, they are malicious users, and not necessarily "hackers," though that term has been maligned so much that only its negative connotation remains today. But in our present-day "us vs. them" universe - where if you're not one of us, you're clearly one of them, and therefore a target of a bomb, a lawsuit, or spam - a colloquialism smacking of Walter Winchell's machine gun, rat-a-tat delivery was long overdue.

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"They're called "bot-herders," reads a public service message from the Dept. of Justice yesterday, "hackers who install malicious software on computers through the Internet without the owners' knowledge." There could be hundreds, thousands of these cyber-farmers plaguing the digital countryside, spreading their malicious filth.

So to help comfort a weary nation, the FBI announced yesterday they are prosecuting three suspected bot-herders, in one of those messages that local TV news typically reserves for the minute of B-roll between the weather and sports.

The arrests and prosecutions come in the first wave of a nationwide dragnet that the FBI is calling "Operation Bot Roast."

"Citizens can protect themselves from botnets and the associated schemes by practicing strong computer security habits to reduce the risk that your computer will be compromised," stated FBI Assistant Director James Finch.

A subsequent press release adds, "The majority of the victims are not even aware that their computers have been compromised or their personal information exploited...That's why we urge every computer owner to implement the security precautions that are available. Prevention is always better than reaction."

What's different about the FBI public awareness campaigns of today from those of forty years ago, is that the FBI strongly urges you do not call them in case you suspect you're the victim of a bot-herder-directed cyber crime. And don't think the FBI will call you, because it won't, and any message that looks like it is...could be coming from one of them. Instead, the Bureau urges you to send a message to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Still, the aura and ambiance of the messages we've seen this week are a throwback to an earlier era. If only Quinn Martin were still around to help us appreciate it.

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