Feeds

Britain tops zombie PC charts

Fear of a bot planet

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

Britain has the largest zombie PC population of any country on the planet, according to the latest Symantec Internet Security Threat Report.

The UK has more than a quarter (25.2 per cent) of all bots – virus-infected, zombie PCs under the control of crackers and used for malicious purposes like identity theft and online fraud – with the US (24.6 per cent) and China (7.8 per cent) in second and third place. The statistics, taken from Symantec’s Global Internet Threat Report for the period July to December 2004, are based on the number of PCs worldwide that are known to be infected with bot agents, such as the infamous Agobot worm.

The prevalence of botnets has become a key issue in information security over recent months. Botnets are computers which are infected by worms or Trojans and taken over surreptitiously by hackers and brought into networks to send spam, more viruses, or launch denial of service attacks.

Worst offender

In the first half of 2004, Finland had the highest level of bot infection. This time around it doesn't even chart. Nigel Beighton, Symantec’s Director of Enterprise Strategy, EMEA, blames Britain's pre-eminence in the latest chart to the rapid roll-out of broadband in this country. "We saw 93 per cent growth in broadband connections last year and this has had a huge impact on the number of people accessing the Internet. Unfortunately, new broadband users may not be fully aware of the additional safety precautions that need to be taken when using an always-on high-speed Internet connection. Clearly, awareness around security issues is improving and it’s making a notable difference, but education still remains the number one challenge," he said

The number of bot-infected computers declined from 30,000+ a day in July to an average of less than 5,000 a day by December, according to Symantec. Although in absolute terms the size of botnet might be decreasing the severity and risks associated with them continue to be a major problem mainly because of a noticeable shift towards the use of bots and bot networks for financial gain.

A recent study by the Honeynet Project suggested zombie controllers were running smaller botnets and limiting the chat they generate in order to try to escape detection. Symantec's Beighton rejects this theory. "I don't think the bad guys are changing how they operate, it's just that they are less successful in obtaining bots," he said.

Agobot - one of the most common agents for compromising Windows PCs - can spread by exploiting the well-known LSASS vulnerability in Windows also exploited by the Sasser worm. Beighton reckons the use of the free firewall in XP SP2 has helped curtail the rise of botnets but he said greater user awareness is a greater factor in helping to clean up the net. ®

  1. United Kingdom (25.2 per cent)
  2. United States (24.6 per cent)
  3. China (7.8 per cent)
  4. Canada (4.9 per cent)
  5. Spain (3.8 per cent)
  6. France (3.6 per cent)
  7. Germany (3.5 per cent)
  8. Taiwan (3.1 per cent)
  9. South Korea (3.0 per cent)
  10. Japan (2.6 per cent)

Related stories

Rise of the botnets
Send-Safe spam tool gang evicted by MCI
Botnets strangle Google Adwords campaigns
Heise.de under DDoS attack
Scot in court on DDoS charges
VXers creating 150 zombie programs a week
Botnet used to boost online gaming scores

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.