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New partnership aims to combat zombie computer networks

Fer Gregory/

Government officials and communications companies announced a partnership on Wednesday to crack down on hackers who harness hundreds to 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, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said at an event announcing the plan.

"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 voluntary 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, among other steps.

(Image via Fer Gregory/  /

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