Computer Security Part 3 – Botnets

There are quite a few topics in information security that I take special interest in.  Phishing, clickjacking, cross-platform malware, and cloud security, but one of the most important issues for me is the prevalence of botnets. Botnets are a collection of computers that have been infected by malware and are remotely controlled by a hacker.

To operate a botnet, all a hacker has to do is get a user to unwittingly download malware that turns the computer into a zombie.  This essentially means that the computer will always be under the control of the person running the botnet.  There is a huge business opportunity here because the botnet operator can sell or rent the botnet to others to either send out spam emails, launch a distributed denial-of-service attack, or even distribute other forms of malware. The worst part is that the users of the zombie computer are completely unaware of what their computer is doing.

You might wonder why this is such an important issue for me. First off, I’m sick of getting spam in my inbox that asks me to enlarge a certain body part which I don’t have.  However, most importantly, this problem is largely preventable. Most of the malware that the big botnets use to infect computers is caught by any decent anti-virus. I know I sound like a broken record by now, but there’s no excuse for people not to be using anti-virus. This goes for people using Macs too! Recently, a new botnet called the “Flashback Botnet” was discovered that had over 600,000 zombie Mac computers under its control.  All of us need to do our parts to ensure that our computer doesn’t become a zombie and an easy solution to at least reduce the probability of this happening is to run an anti-virus software.

To all those that hate spam as much as I do, all hope is not lost! Recently Microsoft helped the U.S. Marshals take down one of the largest botnets, the Zeus botnet. It was a huge step to making the Internet a little friendlier, but I don’t expect to stop seeing spam to “Enlarge my manhood” any time soon. Oh well, a girl can dream. Did you catch that spammers? A girl.


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