Germany is the first country to launch a large scale malware cleaning project backed by the government, Internet service providers and security companies.
The new Anti-Botnet Counseling Center (Anti-Botnet Beratungszentrum) is an organization dedicated to assisting German users with removing botnet infections from their computers.
It was established with funding from the Federal Ministry of Interior and the technical assistance is provided by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).
The initiative was announced late last year as a collaboration between the Federal Government and the German Internet Industry Association (eco).
The major Internet service providers involved in the project so far include 1und1, Telekom, Kabel BW, NetCologne, QSC and Versatel.
These ISPs play a critical role as they monitor their own networks for botnet activity and identify the offending IP addresses. Then they notify affected customers via email and direct them to the new anti-botnet center.
The center maintains a special website with information and tools that people can use to clean their computers. If this is not enough they can also call a hotline where they will receive assistance from specialists.
There are two anti-malware tools offered for free to users. One is a Windows-based scanner and removal tool from Symantec specially created for this project and called DE-Cleaner.
The other solution is a bootable Linux CD with software from German antivirus vendor Avira and is more suitable for cleaning advanced threats, like rootkits.
"While running the Linux from the rescue system, Windows is completely inactive (not as in Safe mode) so the rootkits are also not active. This is actually the only reliable possibility to detect rootkits," Sorin Mustaca, a data security expert at Avira, explains.
ISPs from other countries, like Virgin Media in UK or Comcast in US, are considering or are running similar customer notification and assistance programs, but the German initiative is the only one that has major Internet service providers working together.