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Just a Thought - Zombies

by - September 24th, 2004

I love a good horror movie. I don't know what it is about us humans that prompts us to deliberately scare ourselves for kicks. There must be some psychological explanation as to why we will deliberately scare ourselves that I won't even try to cogitate upon, but it is fun.

One of my favorite types of horror movies is the zombie flicks. Back in the day, zombies were these decaying undead, or quasi-dead creatures that staggered after you. I wasn't too afraid of them because I figured I could easily out run them, something that the idiots in these movies never seemed to figure out. Nowadays, however, zombies come after you like Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner; anyone who has seen the latest version of Dawn of the Dead knows exactly what I mean. Freaky, but I just love that sort of thing.

I'll tell ya what I don't love though; zombies of the type that are increasingly populating cyberspace. Thanks to worms, viruses, and other types of malware, PCs are turning into a hoard of mindless, ravenous things that have only two purposes on their underpowered Intel brains; wreak havoc, and create more zombies. Nearly every week new virus scanner .dat files become available, and it seems that Microsoft issues security updates for its sieve of an OS almost as frequently in a potentially useless attempt to fix some serious Windows flaw. IT workers put in so many long hours slaving in computer rooms updating, patching, and testing Windows updates that they've begun to look like the undead themselves.

"My Gawd Bill, have you been here all night patching Windows XP boxes?"

Bleary eyed, pale, and ragged, Bill replies as a dollop of drool drips from the corner of his chapped, caffeine-stained lips, "Moooaaarrrgggh!"

"What's that, Bill?"

Now weeping openly, Bill staggers forward on unsteady legs. He marshals his wits and declares in a guttural cry, "Moooaaaccc! Mee wanna Mooaaccc!"

Bill has good reason for his request: An article in New Scientist claims that thousand of new PC zombies are being created daily; thousands! And get this: malware writers are making money creating this mass of digital infection. They can sell the network of zombies they've created to spammers, other anarchists, and evil-doers. Check out this bit from the article, Thousands of zombie PCs created daily:

The rate at which personal computers are being hijacked by hackers rocketed in the first half of 2004, reveals a new report. An average of 30,000 computers per day were turned into enslaved "zombies", compared with just 2000 per day in 2003.

US computer security company Symantec says efforts to build so-called "botnets" - networks of zombies used to launch attacks on corporate Web sites or as anonymous relays for sending out spam - from hacked computers have intensified dramatically in recent months. The company's latest biannual report shows that recruitment of "zombie" machines peaked at 75,000 computers per day.

Jeremy Ward, service development manager at Symantec, says virus writers can make good money by selling botnets to online extortionists and spammers.

You can read the article at the New Scientist Web site.

That's frightening, and it should be a wake-up call to anyone thinking of making another large PC purchase: Will you be buying potential Net-zombies? You could wake up one morning and find that all of your new PCs have turned into lumbering, slobbering, hulks mindlessly cranking out spam or viral spores? Its enough to make a grown man cry.

Macs are impervious to PC-based viruses, and there is no known Mac malware turning Macs into mindless slaves. So, Bill, relying on his last ounce of sanity, is looking for the one thing that could restore him and the company he supports to productivity and some semblance of normalcy. Even in his demented state Bill knows that while he can get cheap PCs, getting Macs would more than make up any cost difference in eliminating downtime and lost productivity due to viral PC infections.

While some of Bill's commiserating IT comrades are making the move to Macs, not enough folks are switching to make a dent in the surplus population of Net-zombies, so the quasi-dead PC population grows.

In Dawn of the Dead there was no cure for whatever it was that made zombies, except for a bullet in the head. In the real world, the only real cure for the Net-zombie infection is not to use a Windows based PC in the first place.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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