News in Brief

Botnets and datasets

Keeping up with the botnets

The Justice Department is explaining why White House efforts to update the criminal code to keep up with botnets and cyber criminals are important.

Current law prohibits creation of a botnet because it prohibits hacking into computers without authorization, wrote Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general in Justice's Criminal Division, in a March 17 blog post. Criminals who rent botnets from online sources, however, have found a loophole because "it is not similarly clear that the law prohibits the sale or renting of a botnet."

Botnets are computers that have been compromised by hackers and whose computing power has been secretly tapped for all manner of Internet cybercrime. Cybercriminals rent banks of the computers to other criminals.

On Jan. 12, President Barack Obama unveiled a proposal designed to protect the online privacy and security of American citizens and businesses, and it includes a provision that would change current law to cover rental botnets.

The White House proposal also recommends changing current law to block the sale or transfer not only of "passwords and other information" (the wording of the existing statute) but also of "means of access," which would include the ability to access computers in a botnet.

Philadelphia opens contracts datasets

Philadelphia officials have released procurement data that will let the public more closely track the government's business, GCN reports.

Summaries of the datasets will break down dollars by vendor and contract type and will list the 20 largest contracts and those that are set to expire soon.

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