01/18/07 - botnets

In today's encore excerpt - criminals on the internet:

" 'I started prosecuting network-attack cases in 1992, and back then it was sort of lone hackers', said Christopher Painter. ... Today 'you have organized criminal groups that are adopting technical sophistication.'

"The most potent weapon for Web gangsters is the botnet. A bot, broadly speaking, is a remote-controlled software program that is installed on a computer without the owner's knowledge. Hackers use viruses, worms, or automated programs to scan the Internet in search of potential zombies. One recent study found that a new P.C. attached to the Internet without protective software, will on average be infected in about twenty minutes.

"In the most common scenario, the bots surreptitiously connect hundreds, or thousands, of zombies [hijacked computers] to a channel in a chat room. The process is called 'herding', and a herd of zombies is called a botnet. The herder then issues orders to the zombies, telling them to send unsolicited e-mail, steal personal information or launch attacks. Herders also trade, rent and sell their zombies. 'The botnet is the little engine that makes the evil of the Internet work,' Chris Morrow, a senior network-security engineer at MCI, said. 'It makes spam work. It makes identity fraud work. It makes extortion ... work.'

"Less than five years ago, experts considered a several-thousand-zombie botnet extraordinary. Lyon now regularly faces botnets of fifty thousand zombies or more ... 'botnets will, unless matters change dramatically, proliferate to the point where much of the Internet ... comes to resemble a mosaic of botnets.' "


Evan Ratliff


The Zombie Hunters


The New Yorker


October 10, 2005


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