Botnets Lead to Identity Theft

When a virus recruits an infected PC into a botnet, a criminal hacker is able to remotely access all the data on that computer.

Robot networks, or botnets, have a varied history. A bot, which doesn’t necessarily have to be malicious or harmful, is essentially a program designed to connect to a server and execute a command or series of commands.

As reported by a McAfee study, networks of bots, otherwise known as drones or zombies, are often used to commit cybercrime. This can include “stealing trade secrets, inserting malware into source code files, disrupting access or service, compromising data integrity, and stealing employee identity information. The results to a business can be disastrous and lead to the loss of revenue, regulatory compliance, customer confidence, reputation, and even of the business itself. For government organizations, the concerns are even more far reaching.”

In the second quarter of 2010, more than two million PCs were recruited into botnets in the United States alone. That’s more than five out of every 1,000 personal computers. The rise and proliferation of botnets will continue to put identities at risk.

Computers with old, outdated, or unsupported operating systems like Windows 95, 98, and 2000 are extremely vulnerable. Systems using old or outdated browsers such as IE 5 or 6, or older versions of Firefox offer the path of least resistance.

To protect yourself, update your operating system to Windows 7 or XP SP3. Make sure your antivirus software is set to update automatically. Keep your critical security patches up to date by setting Windows Update to run automatically as well. And don’t engage in risky online activities that invite attacks.

In order to protect your identity, it is important to observe basic security precautions. When you conduct transactions with corporations and other entities, however, the safety of your information is often beyond your control.

Consumers should consider an identity theft protection product that offers daily credit monitoring, proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. McAfee Identity Protection includes all these features in addition to live help from fraud resolution agents if your identity is ever compromised. For more tips on protecting yourself, please

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss identity theft. (Disclosures)

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