In Thieves Winning Online War, Maybe in Your PC the New York Times’ John Markoff writes of the growing threat of botnets. Increasingly sophisticated, modern worms conceal themselves in varying ways, mimicking legitimate software on the PC, and then hunt down personal information on your PC — passwords, financial information and so on — or take your PC over and turn it into a spamming machine. By the end of this year, 15 percent of computers attached to the internet will become infected, "a staggering number of infected computers, as many as 10 million, being used to distribute spam and malware over the Internet each day."
It’s the stuff of science fiction. John Brunner‘s 1975 novel Shockwave Rider described a 21st century networked world in which hacker protagonist Nick Halflinger releases a worm into the network to create persona’s and identities for himself, and to gain access to information. A powerless government finally attempts to unleash a nuclear strike, which is turned back as Halflinger penetrates military computers and manufacturers a counter order. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, check out the SRI Bothunter mentioned in Markoff’s article. Who knows what you might find on your network!