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An unprotected Windows XP machine was breached within four minutes, and became a zombie in less than ten hours, tests conducted by USA Today show. The paper set up six honeypot PCs and monitored the results.

An XP PC running SP1 was breached by an intruder through a hole that the Sasser worm used, only four minutes into the test. Within fifteen minutes two intrusions took place, one using the MS Blaster hole. Within ten hours hackers had established an irc channel and the machine was broadcasting its vulnerabilities to the world at large. A Windows Small Business Server was similarly compromised, with the intruder uploading a program which gave full control of the machine.

While the XP SP1 machine averaged 341 attacks per hour, the number dropped to just 3.4 per hour for a machine running Service Pack 2. SP2 ships with the built-in Windows firewall turned on by default. A Linux box averaged 1.9 attacks per hour.

The paper stresses that the results don't account for the most common forms of compromise which require user intervention, such as malware and spyware programs activated by email and a web browser. ®

Related link

Unprotected PCs can be hijacked in minutes - USA Today

Reg advice on securing your PC

Gadzooks! My PC has the pox [Using Windows? Start here]
SP2 on XP Home - Security opportunities missed [In Depth Review]
WinXP SP2 = security placebo? [XP Home SP2 Review]
Computer Security: a handbook for the ordinary user

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