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Botnets Make Innocent Users Participate in Internet Crime

Mischief-makers, in their never-ending drive to break through the defenses of the Internet, are sharpening their tools. With increasing elegance they are using programs to infect millions of PCs and exploit the combined strength of the captured systems. Such systems are known as Botnets and are thought to be behind the spectacular rise in spam that has plagued the Internet in the last few months.

In its yearly intelligence report, the computer security company MessageLabs says that over 80 per cent of all spam now can be traced to botnets. Last month, for the very first time, just one Internet service provider spawned over one billion spam e-mail messages for 24 hours. This shows that computers of the service providers' customers had been welded into a massive network.

The New York Times reports that computer proficient agents in Eastern Europe and elsewhere have probably begun this latest computer crime. Blameless users have been turned into unknowing partners in crime and security experts are totally baffled.

According to Gadi Evron, a computer security analyst for Beyond Security, which provides guidance to an international volunteer initiative to tackle botnets, the new crime is perfect crime since the hazards and low and the gains are immense. It is necessary now to decide upon an appropriate course of action.

In the past few years, however, such hostile actions have become more and more widespread, leading to increasingly stricter security countermoves. The birth of botnets has caused consternation not just among computer security experts, but also those who gave shape to the first Net infrastructure.

David J. Farber, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, said that botnets were certainly a threat but they could not easily be explained. Speaking of Windows computers, he went on to say that computers in common use were very vulnerable and this was very serious.

Till date botnets have mostly attacked Windows-based computers, although there have been some reports of incursions on machines running the Linux and Macintosh operating systems.

ShadowServer, a voluntary group of computer security specialists that keeps track of botnet activity, is now monitoring over 400,000 infected computers and about 1,450 separate IRC control systems.

Related article: Botnet Misuses Google Analytics

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