Friday, April 30, 2010

Choosing to host malware

ZDNet's Dancho Danchev report on a disturbing development in activism; the opt-in botnet.

In case you don't know what a botnet is, it is a group of computers that have been taken over by malware that allows someone besides the computers owner to take control and/or use the computer to attack other computers, servers, and even botnets. Usually the people hosting the computers in the botnet don't know they've been infected. In the case of an opt-in botnet, though, they do. Not only do they know, they've intentionally infected their computers so a coordinated attack against an entity their activist group doesn't like can be launched. This is similar to activists chaining themselves to trees, vandalizing government (or other) buildings, or bombing whatever they don't like.

This kind of activity is illegal, but most people who become part of opt-in botnets either don't know this, don't care, or think that, as part of a large group, they are less likely to be singled out. They may or may not be right about that last one.

One of the things that make opt-in botnets feasible is the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But while they make such things easier, they don't guarantee success. The article examines some successful and not so successful opt-in botnets. It's interesting reading. If you find such things interesting, check it out.