Government officials and communications companies announced a partnership on Wednesday to crack down on hackers who harness hundreds of computers to steal information, send spam, or launch cyberattacks.
The campaign is aimed at "botnets," which are created when hackers surreptitiously use a network of other people's computers. Computer owners rarely know that their devices are being used.
According to the security firm McAfee, nearly 5 million computers around the world have been co-opted for use in botnets.
Under the partnership, government agencies, trade associations, and companies will coordinate their efforts to reduce the threat posed by botnets, the White House's cybersecurity coordinator, Howard Schmidt, said at an event announcing the plan.
“The issue of botnets is larger than any one industry or country. This is why partnership is so important,” he said.
On the government side, agencies are planning to increase programs to share cyberthreat information with each other and with private businesses. Industry partners, meanwhile, released a set of voluntary steps that companies can take to reduce the threat of botnets.
"The proliferation of botnets and malware in cyberspace threatens to undermine the efficiencies, innovation, and economic growth of the Internet and diminishes the trust and confidence of online users," the group of trade associations said in the statement of principles released on Wednesday.
The proposals include sharing cyber responsibilities, coordinating across sectors, acting globally, reporting lessons learned, educating users, promoting innovation, and respecting privacy.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who joined Schmidt and other officials at Wednesday's event, has pushed Internet service providers to agree to voluntary measures to attenuate botnets and other cyberthreats. In March, some of the largest ISPs, including AT&T, Verizon, Cox, and Comcast, agreed to the proposals.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has joined other administration officials in pushing for new cybersecurity legislation from Congress, said the partnership should underscore the urgency of working together to combat cyberthreats.
"Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility--the responsibility of government, our private-sector partners, and every computer user,” she said.