New McAfee study reveal scale of botnet infections

Security specialist McAfee has revealed the true extent of malicious online infections.

Robot attacking computer

Cyber criminals have taken charge of as many as 12 million new IP addresses since the start of 2009 - a worrying 50 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

So claims McAfee in its latest quarterly threat report, which suggests that cyber criminals are gathering resources as they build an army of infective machines, primed and ready to do their malicious bidding.

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"The massive expansion of these botnets provides cyber criminals with the infrastructure they need to flood the Web with malware," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee Avert Labs, "Essentially, this is cyber crime enablement."

Particular points of note during the period include the resurgence of the Koobface virus, which made an appearance in over 800 new guises, and an increase in URL redirects and spoofed web 2.0 sites designed to hide the true purpose of malicious sites.

While the number of infected, so-called 'zombie machines', grew during the period, rising by almost 50 per cent, or 12 million new IP addresses, during the quarter, the amount of spam fell, thanks in part due to last year's McColo shutdown.

However, McAfee said that it expected to rise again, dramatically and sooner rather than later. "Spam levels are still 30 per cent below their peak levels, and we did not see the increase that historically occurs in March," the report warns.

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"The question is not whether spam will return to previous levels, but rather when it will return. There is data regarding new zombie and botnet creation that suggest the time may not be too far in the future

This does not mean to say that spam has disappeared. While last year McAfee saw an average of 153 billion messages per day, this March levels averaged out at about 100 billion messages per day.

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