Home invasions, from inside?

If you live in Australia, you’ll be aware of many disturbing reports of home invasions in the press.

According to ABS statistics on household crime, the rate of household crime has actually remained stable between 2010 and 2011, so perhaps we’re just seeing an increase in the reporting of these crimes.

I wonder, therefore, if any interest might come from an assertion that around 80,000* homes have already been “invaded” by criminals of a virtual kind—botnets, commonly known as zombies.

Household owners of computers infected by botnets continue to be oblivious to the repercussions of these bots residing in their machines.

Although less confronting than a bunch of thugs breaking down your door or jimmying your window, the results can be equally damaging financially.

Once a hacker has control of a computer, they often share or sell access to control the botnet, allowing others to use it for malicious purposes.

A prime example is a spammer using a botnet to send out spam email – with 99 per cent of all spam now being distributed in this way.

A few years ago Sophos penned a blog with the provocative title “Is Your Grandma Selling Porn?” to highlight the issue.

Zombies in the lounge rooms of Australian have been a concern to many groups.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy runs an annual Cyber Security Awareness Week, and the Internet Industry Association has developed a code for ISPs called the iCode specifically targeting this crime.

As part of functioning society, we pick up our rubbish at the beach, drive our cars with general courtesy, and avoid reclining our seat’s during inflight meal service.

Maybe we could provide the same courtesy to other users of the internet and do our bit to ensure we are not contributing to the plague of zombies roaming our digital highways?

What can you do to help?

  • Scan your computer and those of your friends (ask permission first!) with an up-to-date anti-virus program. If you don't already have an anti-virus you can always download a free trial edition from Sophos. If you use a Mac at home, we have free anti-virus software for you too.

  • Keep your operating system and programs up-to-date with the latest security patches, and run a firewall.

*This is a number extrapolated from a number of sources and is representative of the order of magnitude rather than a specific number of botted Australian computers.

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