Tech writer: Windows PCs highly vulnerable to zombie hijacking; get an Apple Mac instead

“How low will spammers go? The latest findings of a Microsoft research project confirm that spammers are routinely hijacking PCs in order to use them as spam relays on a scale that is almost unimaginable,” Al Fasoldt writes for The Syracuse Post-Standard. “Microsoft monitored the activities of a standard Windows XP computer that had an always-on connection to the Internet. The PC was quickly taken over by zombies virus-like invaders sent out by spammers. Microsoft found that the zombies then contacted remote computers to inform them that the PC was available as a relay. Over a 20-day period that single PC received 5 million “pings,” or hits, from other PCs seeking to connect to it, Microsoft says.”

Fasoldt writes, “The company monitored outgoing traffic, too, and discovered that this single PC processed 18 million spam e-mails in that period. (Microsoft blocked all the spam the PC tried to send.)”

“Sophos, a security firm, estimates that half of all spam originates from zombie PCs. The amount of zombie-generated spam is estimated to be at least 15 billion pieces a day,” Fasoldt writes. “Zombies take advantage of lax security in Windows PCs by infecting PCs through malicious e-mail attachments and through direct attack across the Internet. After they burrow into the computer, each zombie sets up a slave server within the PC that receives instructions from its master computer. Each zombie server an infected PC can have many running at the same time can relay spam, viruses and spyware to other computers while the PC is unattended.”

In his full article, Fasoldt lists five ways to try to prevent your Windows PC from becoming a zombie. The first four deal with Windows, but Fasoldt’s fifth method is guaranteed to work: “Consider switching to an Apple Macintosh. Apple’s computers are not vulnerable to zombies.”

Full article here.

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MacDailyNews Take: Microsoft: can’t make a secure OS, but they’re excellent at spreading an OS that’s perfect for clogging up the Net for everybody – even those smart enough to avoid Microsoft products – with exceedingly massive traffic from millions of wtfpwned zombie Windows PCs. Ignorance combined with cheapness is a lethal mixture for Joe and Jane Sixpack – they don’t even realize that their shiny, new Windows box they “got such a great deal on over to the Wal-Mart” is already owned by someone else.

[UPDATE: 10:30am ET: added “the” before “Wal-Mart” as per Mr. Sixpack’s feedback below.]

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Windows switchers, now’s your chance: Apple Mac mini with Mac OS X Tiger for $379 – November 03, 2005
Computer columnist: anti-virus software purely optional for Apple Macs, not so for Windows – November 01, 2005
Millions of Windows PC’s hijacked by hackers, turned into zombies; Macintosh unaffected – September 08, 2004
Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness – December 21, 2003

41 Comments

  1. Such a sad state of affairs.
    At least I’ve converted one friend and he himself is convincing another to join the clan of Mac. However, I came across a really hard job trying to convince two of my uni mates. One was stubbornly pro-Microsoft, and well i guess since he has to manage and support Windows, he believes he needs the ‘troubleshooting’ skills at home to quickly fix problems at work. How sad… The other was just ignorant enough to say “Hmm.. Apple sounds good, but I’m just used to Windows so I dont think I’ll bother changing”. Man, I really wanted to smack him one!!! And to add icing to the cake, he says “If i come across any problems, then I can ask Alan (the Windows administrator) for some help!”

    Sigh. Anyone else have any problems like this trying to convince others to join? Cos I’m getting fed up of receiving spam from these zombie PCs…. 🙁

  2. my mom has PC crap. She just goes starts it up and connects to the internet, not knowing what’s out there. In 1 yr she could not use her computer because of all the crap that was on it. Why should she have to know about spy ware, zombie’s and security. Well she doesn’t. She’s getting a mini for christmas this year.

  3. I was searching gmail for sent items and found I had been sending
    spam. I checked the source and found it matched my machine’s IP and
    MTA even though I rarely use Mac mail these days:

    X-Gmail-Received: 577d5a5b8d095ed2c56826b07db34a8610c2a857
    Delivered-To: tom.coady@gmail.com
    Received: by 10.11.118.55 with SMTP id q55cs11874cwc;
    Mon, 1 Aug 2005 03:19:27 -0700 (PDT)
    Received: by 10.54.45.14 with SMTP id s14mr2740332wrs;
    Mon, 01 Aug 2005 03:19:26 -0700 (PDT)
    Return-Path: <tom.coady@gmail.com>
    Received: from ?192.168.1.2? ([81.86.102.255])
    by mx.gmail.com with ESMTP id 12sm5463072wrl.2005.08.01.03.19.26;
    Mon, 01 Aug 2005 03:19:26 -0700 (PDT)
    Resent-Message-Id: <491453931083.OQV42757@sandra.braydownhill.com>
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
    Resent-Date: Mon, 1 Aug 2005 11:19:26 +0100
    X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.733)
    Resent-To: Tom Coady <tom.coady@gmail.com>
    Subject: Investors Need To Know
    Resent-From: Tom Coady <aovt15@dsl.pipex.com>
    Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 15:37:20 +0100 (BST)
    To:
    From: Rhonda Hurt <tom.coady@gmail.com>
    Message-ID: <42edf72e.6def61e0.2525.ffff9be3@mx.gmail.com>

  4. “Anyone else have any problems like this trying to convince others to join?”

    Your two “Uni-mates” (wait – what’s a uni-mate? Isn’t that the name of the big headed robot on the Jetsons?) are both pretty typical of those who won’t change…

    I was a Windows admin. An MCSE for 8 years. I worked my way up to Network/IT Manager in 2000, but was laid off in 2002 due to overseas outsourcing, and since then have been struggling to make a good income out of computers. In the last few months, I took a part time hobby, web design, and have been making it into a career…

    It’s been slow, mainly due to constraints of advertising and marketing, but it’s coming together slowly but surely. In March I bought my first Mac since my SE/30 died back in January ’94 (I’ll admit that even then, I didn’t use the Mac as much as my DOS PC, but that is because I was a CNE (Certified NetWare Engineer) back then. A couple weeks ago I ordered a Quad Power Mac, so you could say, I have gone full bore. I still have two fairly high level PCs in the House. One still runs Windows, but I only use it to test web designs in IE (which is where I have to be the most careful, even though I strictly validate my pages (btw the way, MDN has over 300 validation errors on each page – I knew it was a badly designed sie, but geez! See for yourself: http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http://macdailynews.com/&charset;=(detect+automatically)&doctype=Inline)

    So, as I was saying, since I bought the Mac, I have been raving about how trouble-free my life has become. Friends converted have mostly been those who don’t live near me, or were affected by my ecision to no longer help with Windows related problems. I simply cut them off, and stopped facilitating their habit. I’d done this before for anyone who has pirated software. That cut down 50% of my wasted time. In the last 9 months, about 5 of my friends have switched to Macs… Three bought Mac minis (two bought refurbs on my recommendation and saving over $100 didn’t hurt – I offered to upgrade the memory to 1GB for the cost of the memory stick, which was just about $100 for each). The other two bought an iMac. One is mad at me right now that I didn’t tell them about the new iMac with built-in iSight and Front Row, and I keep swearing I had no way of knowing! He’ll get over it… He was literally 3 days outside of Apple return for latest model program.

    However, I still know about 20 people who stubbornly refuse to switch… Most are on limited incomes (I unfortunately live in an area populated by low-income, badly educated rednecks and white-trash, and many of my friends have simple-minded mentalities. Those who can afford $499 for a Mac mini seem to have the average excuse that Windows is “good enough,” though no longer having someone who will willingly support their technical problems for no charge has definitely hampered a couple of them! Others are PC Gamer (I don’t understand them – i find the Xbox and PS2 quite adequate for my gaming needs, and preferred them both before I switched to Mac too). But, the majority don’t believe me when I say “there are no viruses on Mac. There is no malware on Mac. There is no spyware on Mac.” They really, seriously believe that “it’s just a matter of time, and I will be screaming as much a they are. The only way I prve it to them is time… If I can show them I have none of those problems, when it comes time for them to upgrade or replace their PCs (everyone I know has 2-5 year old PCs… None of these people will likely be able ot use Vista, even if, in the unlikely circumstance that Microsoft actually gets it right the first time- I DO know better from 22 years of experience with Dos/Windows and other Microsoft software.

    Sorry for the long post.

  5. As a business owner that uses only Maintosh computers, my business is directly affected by Micosoft’s inability to fix their software – costing me time and money every time the internet is slowed or brought to its knees by a worm or virus and/or every spam email I receive due to all these zombie pc’s everywhere, etc..

    While Windows users have no form of retribution due to the Micosoft EULA they agree to, I did not agree to anything. It would be superb if non-Windows users got together and filed a lawsuit against Micosoft for disrupting our lives as a result of their incompetence, and failure to secure their operating systems.

    Probably never happen, but it would send a message to those idiots that we’re tired of being on the receiving end of their so called innovation.

  6. GC:

    Brilliant idea! Why couldn’t it happen? There must be enough Mac and Linux users who are willing to undertake such a lawsuit. And the publicity would bring home to thousands, maybe, millions of people just how toxic Windows really is.

    MW: spring. Spring into action?

  7. I have tried cutting off my windows using friends but haven’t been able to do it. At school I have a pretty constant stream of people asking me to help them with windows. Last year I spent 2 days getting a dell laptop on the school network when they hadded required anti virus software, all windows updates, and a back ground program to make sure you didn’t disable any of the mandated settings. ugh.

    Everytime they bring a problem like that to me I try to say no but I feel bad and cave. If it is actually a proven tachnique to get stubborn friends to switch maybe I’ll renew my efforts at quitting.

    Windows is like smoking, it’s better to never start.

  8. My dad still has a Micron laptop running Win2000. He’s connected to our Airport network, and he has to join the network every time he turns on his computer, but we’re still trying to get him a Powerbook.

  9. MS PEECEES must have a mind numbing virus in them that infects the thinking process of the user. It is an extremely difficult talk sense to a windows wonder. All you get is a multitude of myths mouthed mindlessly.

    I’m thinking of giving up my Mac crusade—especially when Apple doesn’t seem to want to advertise the strengths and safety of Macs.

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