Malicious-software spreaders get sneakier, more prevalent

by Ara Rubyan

Let’s get right to it: your computer might be hurting someone in a hospital and you wouldn’t even know it.

From USA Today:

Without you realizing it, attackers are secretly trying to penetrate your PC to tap small bits of computing power to do evil things. They’ve already compromised some 47 million PC’s sitting in living rooms, in your kids’ bedrooms, even on the desk in your office.

What are the evil things that these people want to do? And how does this relate to hurting someone in a hospital?

Mostly, they assemble networks of compromised PCs to make quick cash by spreading adware — those pop-up advertisements for banking, dating, porn and gambling websites that clutter the Internet. They get paid for installing adware on each PC they infect.

So on a basic level, these “bot herders” get some quick cash. In the meantime, your computer slows down or stops working reliably because it is busy doing somebody else’s business.

So how does this injure someone in a hospital?

At about the same time — in early 2005 — Christopher Maxwell and two co-conspirators were allegedly hitting their stride running a similar operation. From his parents’ home in Vacaville, Calif., Maxwell, then an 18-year-old community college student, conspired with two minors in other states to spread bots and install adware, earning $100,000 from July 2004 to July 2005, according to a federal indictment.

They ran into a problem in January 2005 when a copy of the bot they were using inadvertently found its way onto a vulnerable PC at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital. Once inside the hospital’s network, it swiftly infected 150 of the hospital’s 1,100 PCs and would have compromised many more. But the simultaneous scanning of 150 PCs looking for other machines to infect overwhelmed the local network, according to an account in court records.

Computers in the intensive care unit shut down. Lab tests and administrative tasks were interrupted, forcing the hospital into manual procedures.

Think about that the next time you or someone in your family is in the hospital for a routine test or an operation.

OK, I can hear you thinking, “What can I do about it?”

For starters, you must scan your computer on a regular basis – and not just for viruses. You must use at least one (or more) programs to scan for and remove malware, or spyware – those programs that turn your computer into a zombie or a bot.

I use Spybot and Ad Aware on a monthly basis. I also shut my computers down almost every night and during the day when I am not there working. Lastly, I run both programs in safe mode, which reduces the likelihood that a tenacious zombie program might be hanging around in memory, hiding and waiting for the scan to finish up.

Here's A Few More Related Posts:
  1. How to rid yourself of computer viruses and malicious software
  2. Protection from PC Intruders
  3. Removing Viruses From Your Computer
  4. Removing Viruses From Your Computer

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