Computer Crime Research Center


Hackers and zombies

Date: December 13, 2007

While doing research on a suspicious neighbor, Ben Sayre went to a website that seemed fishy and later noticed extra buttons showing up on his computer screen. Sayre, a UW-Madison journalism graduate student and victim of a computer virus, said he doesn’t do much to protect his computer from future viruses and other malware, or software used for malicious attacks and intrusions.

“I worry about it a little, but I feel I can just reinstall the OS [operating system] if it actually makes it hard to use my computer,” Sayre said.

The downsides to not protecting your computer can reach far beyond the annoyance of reinstalling an operating system, however: unprotected computers leave themselves vulnerable to botnets, or “robot networks.”

Using a botnet, a hacker or spammer can remotely control a “zombie army” of computers, according to the government computer-protection website OnGuard Online, and the owners might not even realize their computers have been compromised.
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