6% of UK desktops part of botnets

Dutch researchers looking into virus infection rates in computers around the world have come to some startling conclusions. In the report, it is claimed that on average 5-10% of a given country’s broadband users are infected with a botnet, with peaks of up to 20%.

Researchers at the Delft University of Technology took data from “spam traps” – e-mail accounts setup specifically to capture spam e-mails – and a variety of other sources. They traced spam e-mail messages to their origin ISP and uncovered the significant and worrying figures.

Greek and Israeli computers were the most infected, both with 20% of their users being infected by botnet programs. The UK hit 6%, with BT being the worst affected, but only because of its larger market share than other ISPs. By collecting data over long periods of time, the researchers were able to form a better picture of the botnets, as not all of the infected machines are used at a given time.

Botnets are not just a threat due to mass-spamming of e-mails and subsequent infections – they are extremely effective for causing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against websites and online services, whereby they are made unavailable to regular users by a surge of connections from other machines.

Fortunately the BBC has some helpful advice for keeping the botnets away: “Let Windows apply updates automatically” and “If an offer looks too good to be true it probably is”

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