“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.
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.]
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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