Website helps those who fret about zombie threat

CipherTrust launches ZombieMeter to track the creation of newly infected PCs that could be used to launch Net attacks.

Internet users concerned about the number of virus-infected PCs ready to launch an attack over the Web can at least keep track of how afraid they should be, and satisfy their curiosity, by visiting CipherTrust's new ZombieMeter resource.

The security company added the meter to its Web site this week, offering visitors hourly information on the global activity of new zombies by tracking data it receives through its IronMail e-mail security appliances.

Zombies are Internet-connected computers that have been infected by malicious code that allows hackers to control them remotely. They are often used to launch denial-of service (DoS) attacks or send unwanted e-mail.

Although CipherTrust only monitors zombie activities based on data from its network of e-mail appliances, it counted an average of 172,009 new zombies a day for the first three weeks in May. Of these, 20 percent are in the U.S. and 15 percent in China. That represents a slight shift from late March and early April, when around 20 percent of the 157,000 new zombies it identified on average each day were in China.

The European Union, meanwhile, was a virtual hothouse for zombies, with 26 percent of new infected machines in its member states during the first three weeks of May, CipherTrust said. Six percent of these were in Germany, 5 percent in France and 3 percent in the U.K., the company said.

South Korea is also a popular zombie haunt: 10 percent of new infected machines in the first few weeks of May were in that country, CipherTrust said.

While the Alpharetta, Georgia, security company said tracking zombies helps it to identify behavioral patterns and predict threats, it was unclear how the information might aid the average Internet user.

"I suppose it might increase your paranoia as a home user, or convince you to update your antivirus software," said one London-based IT manager.

The ZombieMeter can be found at http://www.ciphertrust.com/resources/statistics/zombie.php.

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