TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Attack of the Zombie Computers Is a Growing Threat, Experts Say

Attack of the Zombie Computers Is a Growing Threat, Experts Say

Monty Solomon (
Sat, 6 Jan 2007 17:56:54 -0500

The New York Times

In their persistent quest to breach the Internet's defenses, the bad
guys are honing their weapons and increasing their firepower.

With growing sophistication, they are taking advantage of programs
that secretly install themselves on thousands or even millions of
personal computers, band these computers together into an unwitting
army of zombies, and use the collective power of the dragooned network
to commit Internet crimes.

These systems, called botnets, are being blamed for the huge spike in
spam that bedeviled the Internet in recent months, as well as fraud
and data theft.

Security researchers have been concerned about botnets for some time
because they automate and amplify the effects of viruses and other
malicious programs.

What is new is the vastly escalating scale of the problem - and the
precision with which some of the programs can scan computers for
specific information, like corporate and personal data, to drain money
from online bank accounts and stock brokerages.

Tips for Protecting the Home Computer

Botnet programs and other malicious software largely take aim at PCs
running the Microsoft Windows operating system, because Windows'
ubiquity makes it fertile ground for network-based attacks.

Using a non-Windows-based PC may be one defense against these
programs, known as malware; also, anti-malware programs and antivirus
utilities for the PC are available from several vendors.

Microsoft entered the computer-security business last year and now
offers a free malware-removal tool for download from its Web site.
The company says the program removes about two million pieces of
malware each month, of which 200,000, or about 10 percent, are botnet

Like Windows, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is also a large,
convenient target for code-writing vandals. Alternative browsers, like
Firefox and Opera, may insulate users. Microsoft's most recent browser
release, Internet Explorer 7, is said to offer significantly improved

Adding software to your browser like Noscript, a plug-in utility, can
limit the ability of remote programs to run potentially damaging
programs on your PC.

Security experts also offer these tips:

Don't share your computer (on which you pay your bills) with your
children (who download games).

Use a firewall program that warns you about outgoing connections
that botnets make to communicate with control software.

Don't use the same password on more than one financial site.

Don't let your browser store your password for such sites.

Don't buy anything offered by a spammer.

Don't click if someone offers you something too good to be true. It is.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Curtis R Anderson: "Re: EarthLink CEO Dead at Age 49"
Go to Previous message: Steven Lichter: "Re: The Best Phone Company in America"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page