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A war lost long ago.
Meet Rick Wesson and Adam Waters. Rick's CEO and Adam's COO of the data gathering company Support Intelligence. They are part of the fight against the increasingly hopeless situation on the Internet with over 900 million catastrophic - and now criminal - Windows computers. Rick and Adam were interviewed in the New York Times recently.
'We're losing this war badly', says Rick Wesson.
Windows computers are today recruited by the millions and the collective power of this 'dragooned network' is then used to commit Internet crimes. And Rick and Adam are two of the 'good guys' trying to thwart their advance.
The prevalence of these 'zombie armies' of Windows computers - called botnets - are behind the huge spike in spam, fraud, and data theft.
The software being used by the criminals can scan computers for specific information such as corporate and personal data, bank account info, stock holdings, etc.
'It's the perfect crime, both low-risk and high-profit', says security researcher Gadi Evron of Beyond Security. 'The war to make the Internet safe was lost long ago and we need to figure out what to do now.' Gadi leads an international volunteer effort to stop these Windows zombie computers.
The scale and power of these zombie botnets of Windows computers have become immense. Over one in ten Windows computers regularly belongs to a botnet - without the clueless owner knowing it.
The situation has alarmed not only security experts but specialists who created the Internet long ago.
'It represents a threat but it's one that is hard to explain', says Internet doyen David Farber. 'It's an insidious threat, and what worries me is that the scope of the problem is still not clear to most people.' Referring to Windows computers, he added: 'they're so easy to penetrate, and that's scary!'
Rick Wesson intercepted a 200 MB file last summer. The file had been generated by a botnet that was systematically harvesting stolen information and then hiding it in a secret location where the 'zombie generals' could fetch it later.
The data in the file was collected during a thirty day period from 793 infected Windows computers and generated 54,926 login credentials together with 281 credit card numbers. It affected 1,239 companies, including 35 stock brokerages, 86 bank accounts, 173 e-commerce accounts, and 245 mail accounts.
All without a criminal having to so much as lift a finger. And all thanks to Microsoft Windows. And Rick's company can identify more than 250,000 new botnet infections daily - a quarter million new Windows computers signing up for the crime nets every twenty four hours.
Do you still have a Windows computer? Great!
When is your computer going to join? Or are you already a member?
1,000,000,000 Spam Messages Per Day by a Single ISP
Some further things to chew on after tonight's repast when you sit down to relax at your Windows computer. Statistics courtesy Support Intelligence.
- 11% of computers online contain botnet code.
- 250,000 new Windows systems get botted every day.
- 80+% of all spam is generated through botnets today.
- The 'one billion spam messages per day by a single ISP' mark was reached in December 2006.