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News Editor

A head-shaker about botnets

Mar 10, 20062 mins
Data Center

Washington Post blogger Brian Krebs has a fascinating/maddening/frightening account of the exploits of a botnet herder called Witlog — who we are led to believe is just a kid — and the 30,000 Windows PCs he controls. Krebs even provides a transcript of his online chat with Witlog.

The gist of the piece is that what Witlog claims to have done to assemble his botnet is so simple that virtually any semi-savvy kid could do the same thing. And the potential for evil that would spawn is enormous.

Just two of the questions being asked this morning: Why hasn’t Witlog seen the inside of a police interrogation room? (No good answer there.) And does press attention of this kind serve to glorify and encourage such activity? (I’ll address the latter below.)

They’re all over the topic on Slashdot in a thread titled “The New Face of Script Kiddiez.” … And you might want to read this backgrounder by my Network World colleague Ellen Messmer about the increasing threat of botnets.

As for glorification, there’s nothing in Krebs’ telling of the tale that could be construed as glorifying Witlog. And the writer does a fine job of pressing his subject on answers that seem self-serving or less than forthcoming. Nevertheless, a reader comes away with the unmistakable impression that Witlog will be a celebrity among his peers today. (That he may also be looking over his shoulder is a plus.)

I’ve been in the news business for 30 years and these issues are not new or specific to the Internet. Weighing the public’s need to know against the possibility of encouraging antisocial or illegal behavior is something any responsible (read: non-Fox) news organization will take seriously.

Bottom line: There’s just no way to justify turning a blind eye to bad actors like Witlog, even at the risk of encouraging copycats.

News Editor

In addition to my editing duties, I have written Buzzblog since January, 2006 and wrote the 'Net Buzz column in Network World's dearly departed print edition for 13 years. Feel free to e-mail me at