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IT-DISCUSS  September 2004

IT-DISCUSS September 2004

Subject:

09/20 30,000 newly created zombie PCs invade earth daily

From:

Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Technology Discussion at UVM <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 21 Sep 2004 08:24:00 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

Thousands of zombie PCs created daily
Will Knight
NewScientist.com news service
17:19 20 September 04
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996420

The rate at which personal computers are being hijacked by hackers
rocketed in the first half of 2004, reveals a new report. An average of
30,000 computers per day were turned into enslaved “zombies”, compared
with just 2000 per day in 2003.

US computer security company Symantec says efforts to build so-called
"botnets" - networks of zombies used to launch attacks on corporate
websites or as anonymous relays for sending out spam - from hacked
computers have intensified dramatically in recent months. The company's
latest biannual report shows that recruitment of "zombie" machines
peaked at 75,000 computers per day.

Jeremy Ward, service development manager at Symantec, says virus writers
can make good money by selling botnets to online extortionists and spammers.

"What we're seeing now is malware, or malicious software, that is truly
professional," Ward told New Scientist. "You have the ability to set up
botnets for a number of money-making schemes."


Turf war


The Symantec report is based on information gathered from 20,000 network
sensors based in 180 countries around the world. They also collected
information from anti-virus software installed on desktop machines and
corporate networks.

The study shows that overall virus activity increased between January
and June 2004. In all, 4496 Windows computer viruses were released
during this time - a fourfold increase on the same period the previous year.

Enlistment of zombie machines reached an all-time high during a turf war
between two virus-writing groups in the first few months of 2004. Those
behind the worms MyDoom and Bagle fought against the creator of the
Netsky virus for ownership of the infected computers.

  During this feud, a version of Netsky was released which was designed
to deactivate the Bagle and MyDoom viruses within infected computers.


Draining resources


Richard Archdeacon, director of technical services at Symantec, adds
that virus writers have developed new programming tricks to thwart
current anti-virus scanning technology.

  Anti-virus scanners examine the contents of files for pieces of data
that match those of a known threat. Many viruses, for example, insert
themselves at the beginning or end of code for a legitimate programme.

But recent strains of virus have made scanning more difficult. A virus
called Impanate, for example, buries portions of its code in an
unexpected region of a software file.

  Another virus, known as Gastropod, rewrites its own code entirely
between replications to complicate detection. Spotting these viruses
requires considerably more computing power, draining system resources.

"These advanced infection mechanisms may render many traditional
antivirus scanning techniques ineffective," Archdeacon says.

But law enforcers have also made progress. On 9 September, an
18-year-old German programmer was charged with creating Netsky and
another worm, Sasser.





Return to news story

  © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

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