Staff and agencies
October 9, 2006
Home computers can be attacked by hackers more than 50 times a night,
the results of an experiment showed today.
Every time a test PC was connected to the internet, it was targeted by
viruses and attempts to gain access to the information it contained.
The experiment, carried out by the BBC News website, used a "honeypot"
PC, which looked like a normal computer to potential hackers but
secretly recorded every attempt to gain access to it.
Each time the machine was put online during the month-long test period,
it came under attack from hackers or dangerous computer programmes. In
one of the busiest nights of malicious activity, it was attacked 53
The computer was subjected to a hijack attempt by subverting the web
server built into Microsoft Windows. A successful hijack would have
handed control of the PC over to the hacker.
There were two port scans - the reconnaissance process used by hackers
to find new victims.
It was attacked 11 times by the Blaster worm, a computer programme that
sends copies of itself to other PCs. A successful attack would have left
the machine unstable.
Three Slammer worm attacks were made, which could have crippled the
computer and left it prone to crashing, and there were 36 fake security
announcements or advertisements for fake security software posing as
Reacting to these could leave a PC clogged with spyware - programmes
monitoring what users do with their computer and then sending the
information over the internet.
Over the course of the experiment, at least one attack an hour on
average came from a dangerous computer bug with the ability to cripple
an unprotected PC.
There was at least one serious attack a night, such as attempts to
hijack the computer that could have led to it being turned into a zombie
PC used to carry out criminal activity without the owner's knowledge.
The BBC said the experiment demonstrated the vulnerability of
unprotected home PCs to malicious hackers.
According to the security software firm Symantec, 86% of all targeted
attacks on computers are aimed at home users.
Experts estimate that there are around 200,000 malicious programmes,
such as viruses, worms and spyware, in existence.
One hacker the BBC spoke to claimed to have made $10,000 (5,345) a day
from computer crime, while another claimed the ability to hack into many
online shops within three to four hours.
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