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US reviews plan to notify internet users of hacker take-over

The US government is reviewing an Australian system that will enable internet service providers to alert customers if their computers are taken over by hackers.

The US is looking at a number of voluntary ways to help the public and small businesses to protect themselves online, according to Howard Schmidt, White House cyber security co-ordinator.

US officials have expressed interest in the Australian system to be rolled out in December, reports the Washington Post.

But, the newspaper said, US officials are stopping short of support for the Australian plan's proposal to allow ISPs to limit online access to customers who do not fix vulnerabilities on their PCs.

In Australia, ISPs will be able to take a range of actions to limit the damage from infected computers, from issuing warnings to restricting outbound e-mail. They could also temporarily quarantine compromised machines while providing customers with links to help fix the problem.

Security industry commentators said internet users are more likely to welcome alerts than any attempt to block their access to online services.

Microsoft recently published a paper on improving internet security that also proposed restricting access if PCs do not conform to set security standards.

One way to tackle internet security, particularly botnet infections, is to implement a global system of health checks similar public health systems in the physical world, according to Scott Charney, Microsoft's corporate vice-president of trustworthy computing.

Critics have said implementing such a system would be difficult. However, the technology to evaluate and certify the health of computers connecting to the internet already exists as various network access systems widely used by enterprises to ensure the health of PCs connecting to their networks, Charney told Computer Weekly.


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