Zombie Nation

By Tink Taylor

I read an interesting BBC news site article yesterday on ‘Zombie’ computers, prompted by new research figures released by McAffee. Their figures report that over 12 million computers have been hijacked by cyber-criminals since January this year alone.

These hi-jacked computers are gateways for cyber crime and provide the infrastructure for vast scale global cyber criminal activity.

Not mentioned in the article but another critical piece to the picture, is that these ‘Zombie’ computers are also the source of the majority of the world’s spam. A recent report stated that email makes up 95% of global internet traffic. Therefore it is important that we reflect that the majority of this traffic is in fact spam, which is an illegal activity.

These Zombie computers which pump out illegal spam emails are hindering permission based email marketers from using the medium for legitimate, targeted, permission-based messaging. No one reading this blog needs me to tell them how frustrating that can be.

There are even bigger issues at stake here, now that email (or rather this should be seen as spam as it was not reported!) is being implicated in global warming – the carbon footprint of the estimated 62 trillion emails sent globally each year is reported to be 17m tons of CO2. This really is an issue that effects everyone – not just those in email marketing.

It’s time for individuals and businesses to take seriously their responsibility for tightening up security on their PCs and preventing exposure to hi-jack risk. Firewalls and regularly updated virus scan software are non-negotiable in the fight against hijackers.

ISPs need to employ tighter monitoring and security measures on email sends rather than relying on filtering at the point of receipt – i.e. the inbox. Intensified monitoring of the ‘upstream’ of email sends can help to identify ‘Zombies’ that are sending vast volumes of email and take action.

Cyber crime and spam are now everyone’s problem and we all need to step into the breach and take security of the internet back into our own hands.