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How do you deal with an epidemic like the spread of computer malware? Australia thinks it has the answer: Blame the victim.I’m not entirely joking: A new plan floated by the country’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications suggests that Australia should allow ISPs to mandate anti-virus and firewall protection among their customers. If a customer does get a malware infection, the ISP would be allowed to cut off that customer’s connection until the problem was fixed.The committee spent 260 pages devising 34 recommendations on cybercrime, which it said was a $649 million problem in Australia each year. Those recommendations include creating a 24-hour “cybercrime helpline,” making the “unauthorized installation of software” illegal, and, most interestingly, allowing consumers to sue companies who release software and hardware with security flaws. Jeez, Microsoft may have to pull out of Australia altogether!But it’s the ideas for dealing with compromised machines in the country that have users a bit concerned. One suggestion is for service providers to introduce “gradual restrictions” to infected machines, eventually cutting off access altogether if the problem isn’t dealt with. And frankly, I’m not completely opposed to this idea on first glance. The bulk of spam that we have to deal with is sent from individual machines that are infected with malware, while their owners are none the wiser. The same goes for distributed denial-of-service attacks and other forms of malware distribution. Cutting infected machines off of the Internet — on a global basis, anyway — would go a long way toward solving these problems.That said, the difficulties with implementing such a solution seem almost insurmountable. How exactly would an ISP identify infected machines? And would it be able to distinguish among Windows, Macs, Linux, and other devices? How would false positives be avoided? What’s the process for fixing a machine that’s been knocked off the Net? After all, if a user is unsophisticated to the point where he doesn’t know he has a virus, how will he be able to correct the problem without Web access? (I suppose that’s what that 24-hour helpline is for.)Of course, the sad thing is that taking infected Australian computers offline would not really do a lot for the global spam and malware problem, either there or here. That’s because malware is distributed globally, not just within the country. You’d have to target the 20 or 30 largest nations in the world with the same restrictions to see a meaningful decline in infections, but that would likely mean tens or hundreds of millions of computers being knocked off the Web. Managing the repair process that would ensue sounds like insanity, but then again, these computers would presumably have to get fixed eventually anyway.