TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Criminals Are Overwhelming the Web

Criminals Are Overwhelming the Web

Tim Weber, BBC News (
Mon, 05 Feb 2007 16:46:02 -0600

By Tim Weber

Criminals controlling millions of personal computers are threatening
the internet's future, experts have warned. Up to a quarter of
computers on the net may be used by cyber criminals in so-called
botnets, said Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.

Technology writer John Markoff said: "It's as bad as you can imagine,
it puts the whole internet at risk."

The panel of leading experts was discussing the future of the internet
at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Internet pandemic

Mr. Cerf, who is one of the co-developers of the TCP/IP standard that
underlies all internet traffic and now works for Google, likened the
spread of botnets to a "pandemic".

Of the 600 million computers currently on the internet, between 100 and
150 million were already part of these botnets, Mr. Cerf said.

Despite all that, the net is still working, which is pretty amazing.
"It's pretty resilient," noted Vint Cerf

Botnets are made up of large numbers of computers that malicious
hackers have brought under their control after infecting them with
so-called Trojan virus programs.

While most owners are oblivious to the infection, the networks of tens
of thousands of computers are used to launch spam e-mail campaigns,
denial-of-service attacks or online fraud schemes.

Net resilience.

Mr. Markoff, who writes for the New York Times, said that a single
botnet at one point used up about 15% of Yahoo's search capacity.

It used retrieved random text snippets to camouflage messages so that
its spam e-mail could get past spam filters.

"Despite all that, the net is still working, which is amazing. It's
pretty resilient," said Mr. Cerf.

The expert panel, among them Michael Dell, founder of Dell computers,
and Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the International
Telecommunication Union, agreed that a solution urgently had to be
found to ensure the survival of the web.

But its members were unsure about feasible solutions, even though they
identified operating systems and authentication as key issues.

It was still too easy for net criminals to hide their tracks, several
panel members said, although they acknowledged that it was probably
not desirable that every individual was definitively identifiable.

"Anonymity has its value, and it has its risk," said Jonathan
Zittrain, professor for internet governance at the University of

Closing doors.

Operating systems like Microsoft Windows, meanwhile, still made it too
easy for criminals to infiltrate them, the experts said.

Microsoft had done a good job improving security for its latest
operating system, Windows Vista, said Mr. Markoff.

"It's a known threat, but the numbers I heard today are staggering," he

But already pirated copies of Vista were circulating in China, even
though the consumer launch of Vista has only been a few days ago.
Experience showed that about 50% of all pirated Windows programs came
with Trojans pre-installed on them, Mr Markoff said.

Mr. Dell said the future might bring "disposable virtual PCs",
accessed through the internet, that would minimise the threat of a
persistent virus infection.

Mr. Toure said that whatever the solution, the fight against botnets was
a "war" that could only be won if all parties -- regulators, governments,
telecoms firms, computer users and hardware and software makers -- worked

Story from BBC NEWS:

Copyright BBC MMVII

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: BBC News: "Cyber Criminals Focusing More on Web Now"
Go to Previous message: Jim Haynes: "Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?"
Next in thread: "Re: Criminals Are Overwhelming the Web"
May be reply: "Re: Criminals Are Overwhelming the Web"
May be reply: ellis@no.spam: "Re: Criminals Are Overwhelming the Web"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page