While the sun is out and shining light on the cobwebs in the house I would like to take some time to describe a horror of modern day computing. This horror is akin to having rodents in your house. They lay claim to part of your house, make nests, breed their young and then they take off around the house looking for something to eat, depositing all sorts of unsightly and unsafe material about the place. They avoid the house owner and stay unnoticed as long as possible.
This particular threat occurs when an outside person establishes access to your computer system. Your computer is then available to them to store and remove things as they please. The motivation behind this is money. People establish a claim on hundreds , thousands or even millions of computers and then they rent them out to other people for various vile deeds..
This despicable behaviour is carried out by people who are actively trawling the Internet for ways to access computers. These outlaws are highly skilled in computer terms but have found it pays better to hijack and using, for their own gain, what rightfully belongs to someone else. These can be very successful criminals, they work outside the law and disregard human rights and normal codes of behaviour.
One of the main activities that they involve themselves in is creating and maintaining botnets. A botnet is a network of computers that act in unison on command after they have been infected with a malicious program called a bot. When a substantial number of computers have been infected, and are operated together, it is then called a botnet. A botnet has a value, some are more valuable than others, depending on the location of the computers and what usernames and passwords are stored on them.
The going rate at the moment for a normal none specific botnet is$ .04 cent for each computer that has been compromised. This might not seem a lot, but in 2009 the “mariposa” botnet was discovered which had over 13 million hijacked computers. Effectively giving this a value of $520,000 per rental.
Any device that connects to the Internet, is potentially exposed to these threats. Some are more vulnerable than others, and it is important to know how vulnerable your devices are and how to protect them. If there is noise in the attic, check it out, before the place is over run.
To check if your Windows computer is part of a botnet, current wisdom suggests running an IEcleaner, one of which is available at http://housecall.trendmicro.com/uk/. Risk of infection in a computer running MacOs or Linux is relatively low at present, but anti-virus software should still be installed.
A word of caution: An IEcleaner will not replace good practice i.e. avoid email that you are not familiar with, do not visit risky websites, virus check memory sticks, keep software up to date, install a firewall, use strong passwords and install and update an anti-virus program.