Comcast has announced a new program that will alert customers when suspicious activity is detected coming from their computers. The alerts will pop up on the homepage and be triggered by such things a sudden and sharp spike in traffic coming from a customer’s IP, known bot behavior and customer IPs showing up on blacklists such as the one kept by Spamhaus.
Alissa Cooper, chief computer scientist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the organization welcomes Comcast’s initiative. “ISPs have a helpful role to play in helping subscribers mitigate these kinds of security threats,” she said. “The challenge is…when users get these notices, do they understand them? Do they trust that they are real? Do they follow through to the point where they clean up their computers?”
The program, called Constant Guard, will begin today with a trial in the Denver area. Customers that may be infected will be presented with the pop up and a link to a Comcast site with instruction on how to clean their systems. Comcast customers are also given access to a free download of McAfee Security Suite (but I don’t recommend it. It’s bloatware, hogs system resources and tends to create conflicts with other programs. Stick to AVG or Avast instead).
This is an excellent idea, but more needs to be done. Since many people rarely if ever visit their ISP’s homepage, perhaps sending email alerts also would be helpful. There would have to be some kind of system implemented that would assure users that those alerts were legit correspondence and not spam though. There’s also the question about what to do about the inevitable false alarms, and if the suspicious activity continues, should they follow Quest’s lead and throw up a warning page blocking them from browsing the web and directing them to clean the infection?
Comcast will presumably be launching the program nationwide if the test in Denver goes well. It will be interesting to see if it is effective at fighting malware and viruses.