Enterprises 'face major threat from bot armies'

Botnet operators are turning their attentions away from just recruiting consumer PCs, and are finding new ways to infiltrate enterprises

Enterprise networks, not just traditionally more vulnerable home systems, are increasingly at risk of infiltration by armies of bots seeking to use their resources, according to a recent survey.

Security company Symantec reported over 2,000 botnet-related security incidents last month in the US alone, but says the problem is a global one.

Symantec has only just begun tracking botnet activity among its enterprise customers, but says it believes 81 out of all the Fortune 100 companies may have been successfully targeted by botnet infections at some point.

Some analysts believe that the actual number of bot infections may not be growing as such, but that awareness of the problem, especially at enterprise level, is rising fast, uncovering more infections than were previously suspected. The media attention that bots are now getting seems in any case to be forcing a re-evaluation of the threat among many IT professionals in the corporate sector.

Consumers, said Symantec, still rank as the biggest victims of bot infections, but says that modern bots like Storm are able to get past corporate defences, helped by the rise in executives working from home work and carrying and using laptops and PDAs in all sorts of poorly secured locations.

"Bots like Storm propagate by web pages and email, not discriminating between corporate and home PCs," said David Sancho, and anti-virus engineer with Trend Micro. "Bots work in a different way these days helping them to fool corporate users and not just less well prepared home ones. And corporate traffic analysers are having a harder time picking them up."

It's not all an intentional move on behalf of the bot herders, he said, whose priority is simply to recruit as many PCs as possible, regardless of where they reside.

"It's difficult to exaggerate how large a role bots play in cybercrime today," said Grant Geyer, vice president of managed security services for Symantec. "From spamming to hosting fraudulent websites, modern cybercriminals at some point will make use of a botnet. This is a significant problem for enterprises."

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