Bots may be losing control of zombies
by Maxim Kelly
Something drastic has occurred in the murky world of bots -- autonomous, intelligent programs that access the web.
Internet security firm SoftScan is looking into the possibility that an army of malicious bots dedicated to circulating spam throughout the internet may have lost control of their client computers -- known as zombies. The Danish e-mail monitoring firm issued a statement on Tuesday pointing out that although there was a vast amount of spam circulated during December, there was an odd and relatively sudden 30 percent reduction last week.
The company is also predicting that if global spam levels continue to rise, governments will be forced to act in order to prevent businesses becoming swamped with unwanted advertisements for viagra, Nigerian gold and dodgy stock options.
SoftScan is provisionally speculating that the recent reduction in spam may be due to a 26 December earthquake in Asia, but because the drop in spam was not an instant phenomenon then some kind of technological fault with bot software is considered more likely.
Another theory put forward is that a large number of bot-infected home computers were replaced by new machines after Christmas. However, SoftScan points out that this trend has not been seen before in the weeks immediately following previous Christmases.
Even so, spam levels for December remained high at 89.36 percent according to the producer of e-mail filtering and monitoring products. SoftScan said even at its lowest point on the 21 December the spam level was still high at 84.95 percent.
SoftScan's chief technology officer, Diego d'Ambra, said he wasn't surprised spam levels are currently so high because anyone can easily buy readymade kits to set up a spam business.
"If spam distribution levels continue to rise at the rate we have seen over the past few months, then I believe that by the end of 2007 governments worldwide will be obliged to enforce international anti-spam laws for the sake of commerce. It is critical that we find a way to destroy the growing army of botnets that distribute the vast majority of spam, both law enforcement and educating users will help, but I'm not sure it will be enough and the industry needs to work together to find a way."
D'Ambra warned computer users whose machines are working slower than expected that they may be infected with the sneaky spam bots.