2004 was quite a year. One thing that grabbed my attention, and may grab yours, is the skyrocketing growth in Bots (PC’s that are controlled by hackers using a worm or Trojan with a backdoor), and skyrocketing may be too subtle of a word.
According to Symantec, there has been a 450% increase in virus attacks on Windows machines this year, and the reason for this shocking rise in attacks is the product of hackers using automation to find vulnerable machines. The major component in these automated attacks is the increasingly popular backdoor element that is written into the viruses. This allows the hacker to take control of your PC and use it to his/her bidding, like trying to infect other machines or mass mailing.
Something that is gaining popularity among these ambitious hackers has been to manage all of their captive PC’s like one big network. This gives the hacker not only limitless processing power but makes it almost impossible for authorities to track down the culprit. Not to mention malicious acts could be preformed from your PC without your knowledge and possibly even causing you to be accused of ill deeds. In addition to automation being directly responsible for the sharp increase in infected PC’s it has also caused a 100% increase in the amount of phishing sites. Which, if you remember, is when a site will spoof a legitimate site in order to trick you into giving up sensitive information such as credit card numbers and account information. Hackers are even renting or selling these annexed networks to other criminals to carry out their illegal acts.
A test done by marketing communications firm Avant-Garde in which they put a number of different systems in a “Honey Pot” situation, with a number of different configurations from XP SP1 and SP2, with and without firewalls, and even other OS’s like Mac OS X, and Linux. With a broadband connection the Windows XP SP1 configured machine with no firewall was taken over and controlled in 30 seconds. On average it took about 4 minutes for a hacker to take control of one of these PC’s, but the systems with firewalls were for the most part left alone for easier prey.
In order to lower your chances of being infected make sure you have all your software up-to-date, antivirus software installed, and a firewall. One thing to keep in mind is that most firewalls have some sort of log that has the ip address of everything coming into or out of your PC. No one is completely immune to viruses regardless of whatever defensive measures you may have in place, which means you have to watch your step and take responsibility for your own online safety.
Stay safe out there,