Should ISPs Disconnect Infected Computers?

In a new parliamentary report, Hackers, Fraudsters and Botnets: Tackling the Problem of Cyber Crime, it has been recommended that it become mandatory that computers have firewall and antivirus software installed prior to an Internet connection being activated.

There have also been other measures suggested to assist in containing infected machines such as the “walled garden” approach (which would pretty much limit Internet access to a page where you can download the required tools to disinfect a computer). Other listed approaches include throttling the speed of connections harbouring infected machines or flat out disconnections.

In theory, I think this is a positive step but I think we can do better than burden ISP helpdesk representatives with having to educate their customers as to why their connections have been crippled or terminated. We need to be teaching computing fundamentals in schools to instil knowledge early in upcoming generations. Getting knowledge and awareness out to the rest of the population is where the real challenge lies. I guess it is always easier for politicians to get the private sector to pick up the tab for their initiatives.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of free antivirus solutions out there and any modern operating system includes basic firewall functionality. Furthermore, router modems provide an extra layer of security courtesy of NAT (Network Address Translation) by dropping incoming connections that were not initiated from behind the router.

Personally, I think disconnecting people outright may be a bit extreme (especially given reconnection penalties) and lumping the burden of handling confused or upset customers on ISPs is a bit harsh. I still believe eduction is the answer but as to how that should be delivered is still up for debate.

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