USA TODAY REPORTS that on an average day, 40 per cent of the 800 million computers connected to the Internet are bots used to send out spam, viruses and to mine for sensitive personal data.
Bots (or web robots) are software applications that run automated tasks much faster than would be possible for a feeble human to do alone. They can infect computers allowing cyber criminals to gain control of them, which they use to access a person’s private banking details and other private information used in identity theft.
Spam mail is also quickly and efficiently spread by bots, (known as spambots) which link up as a spambot network to inundate the Internet with emails pushing enhancement products, fake lottery wins and mail order brides.
Threat data firms, like San Francisco based Support Intelligence, admit that they are having a hard time keeping up. Support Intelligence’s CEO, Rick Wesson, reckons "the mechanisms we use to protect our networks simply are not working."
Cybercriminals are turning to bots more and more frequently to nefariously send out phishing spam, host phishing Web pages and store phished data (attempts to fraudulently acquire sensitive information) in order to hoard enough data to feed identity theft cons for many years. Some bots hide behind fake pop up ads, others as links purporting to sell anti spyware products, yet others use sophisticated psychological ploys and social engineering to make people click on their malicious links.
The criminal groups who use bots make money in various ways. One common way is to urge users to buy shares in little-known companies, in order to abuse the artificial inflation of the share price to generate money. Others use their bots to repeatedly click on online ads to earn click through revenue. Some even blatantly use the sensitive data they have mined to steal directly from people’s bank accounts.
The phenomenon is also increasingly on the rise. USA Today says that e-mail management company Cloudmark reckons that spam now accounts for 91 per cent of all emails this month, compared to only 64 per cent last June. The increased botnet traffic also puts a significant load on ISPs which then have to beef up bandwidth to deal with the inordinate amounts of bot traffic. Paying the price spent on doing this, naturally falls to you lot. µ
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