By Will Sturgeon
26 January 2007
Father of the internet Vint Cerf has warned high-powered attendees at
the World Economic Forum in Davos that the internet is at serious risk
Vast networks of compromised PCs, used by criminals for sending spam and
spyware and for launching denial of service attacks are reported to be
growing at an alarming rate in terms of their potential and Cerf, now an
employee of Google, warned they could undermine the future of the
internet - likening their spread to a pandemic.
Cerf predicted that a quarter of all PCs currently connected to the
internet - around 150 million - could be infected by Trojans which
covertly seize control of a computer and its broadband connection,
handing control of both to remote criminals.
According to Mark Sunner, chief security analyst at MessageLabs, Cerf's
words of warning are far from scaremongering and the picture is at least
as serious as Cerf paints it.
Sunner said around the turn of the year security experts were watching
one botnet, called Spam Thru, which not only had its own antivirus
protection to clear other botnets off 'its patch' but had the potential
to be 10 times more productive than most other botnets while evading
detection because of in-built defences.
He said the most worrying thing about Spam Thru is he suspects a major
spike in traffic towards the end of 2006 was merely a testing of the
waters and much worse could be to come - not least when other similarly
sophisticated botnets appear online.
Sunner added: "With new levels of sophistication this has reached a real
milestone. Botnets are getting smaller, more stealthy and more discreet
and yet the volumes of spam are going up.
"Without a hint of scaremongering, will this get a lot worse throughout
2007 in terms of botnet sending? Absolutely, yes."
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