It’s a thriller – kindof. You may not have seen it on mainstream news but in the background there is a serious battle going on that directly affects you and millions of other computing folk. It involves botnets which aren’t networks of robots but rather, a group of computers that have been seized by software that in turn turns them into zombies. While these zombies may not haunt people, the evil minded people who control them send out spam messages among other nefarious computing activities. And how does your computer become a zombie? One popular method involves scareware. You receive a popup message saying that your computer is infected and you need to download antivirus software. Your fear leads you to download and even buy the fix, which leads your computer down the path to becoming a zombie. As a result, there is an ongoing war to seek out and destroy botnets and the people behind them.
But it’s not that simple. Last month Microsoft reported that it had shut down Kelihos, which is one of the major botnets in the world. There were 41,000 computers in the network being used for spam messages and cyber crimes. Before that Microsoft had taken on botnets named Waledac and Rustoc. It filed a civil case against the people who were thought to be behind Kelihos – most of them named John Doe. But the primary defendant fought back. He categorically denied any wrongdoing, claiming instead that his domain name had been hijacked. He was the victim here. While at first Microsoft appeared to be holding its ground, latest word says Microsoft has settled the case and dismissed the lawsuit against the domain name holder. But it continues with the suit against the John Doe group. Meanwhile, the head of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit says that if you suspect your computer could be a zombie, there’s a Microsoft fix for that. Who knew Microsoft had a crime unit?
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