Have you considered that your computer, your laptop or even your smartphone could be attacking other people’s computer systems, sending out spam, sending our junk information to flood someone’s server? It’s entirely possible.
All sorts of malicious software are on the internet which takes advantage of security holes in the Windows operating system and installs a program that can be controlled by a hacker from a remote computer. These programs can act as a server for illegal files such as child pornography, attack other computer systems to install the same piece of malicious software and bring down websites by flooding them with junk traffic.
These programs are called “botnets,” and the number of computers infected with them is on the rise. They are called botnets, because they each computer that a hacker infects with connects to a server and accepts commands from the hacker as a group, making them a network of bots. When they work in unison, they can do much more damage than if just one computer were trying to spread the virus alone.
Just how many computer systems are infected by these botnets?
No one can be absolutely sure, however, a recent estimate by Cerf stated that there are upwards of 150 million computers on the internet that are infected by botnet software. Chances are that none of these system’s owners even know that there is a botnet running on the system.
This is about one-fourth of all of the systems on the internet. These botnets are also getting bigger. Arbor networks announced in 2006 that they were seeing botnets which could generate up to 20 gigabits per second of traffic to flood a site and bring it down from the web. According to a report released by Imperva around 94.2% of the websites have experienced some sorts of botnet traffic (link).
There are a lot of economic implications of these botnets. If your company has to make a botnet owner mad, there’s a pretty good chance that they could take your company’s website down for quite a while until all the offending systems could be blocked. One company, Blue Security, was targeted by a botnet attack and ultimately shut down because they could not compete with the continuous attacks by the offending hacker.
In addition to corporate attacks, spam is also quite a lucrative activity. Botnets now send out the majority of SPAM email which can make spammers quite a bit of money. It might not seem like spamming is that profitable since everyone hates it, but even if just a fraction of 1% of the people who receive the SPAM click on the advertisement, the spammer has made more than enough money back.