Given that the bulk of PCs are windows based and Microsoft’s horrible security track record, Zittrain finds it shocking how little “truly disruptive security incidents” have arisen since 1988.
But what Zittrain tries to paint a picture of is that times are changing rapidly for the worse. A new era of malware and parasitic computer viruses have begun their attacks.
While the previous viruses of the 1990s did cause “billions of dollars” in lost productivity, they were fairly innocuous in that they did not destroy data or interfere in international politics or security.
But now botnets are threatening to break that trend:
- 1997 – 100 to 150 million computers infected
- 2007 – 10 million computers infected according to Message Labs, 30 million according to Damballa
- Zombie computers produce 80 % of the world’s spam
- Botnets attack online gambling sites to extort money, $50,000 / day
- 2003 – Sobig.f virus – 70% of all the world’s email in 2 days
- 2004 – Sasser worm – 500,000 computers in 3 days
- 2006 – U.S. Department of State infected weeks before North Korea’s missile tests
A botnet is a virus which infects a computer and uses it in a network of others (usually by email) to solicit other computers to join in the infected network. They spread with incredible speed and eat up internet bandwidth and slow down computers.
Due to the fact that incidents double each year, Zittrain predicts that anti-virus companies will not be able to keep up with the spread. He is trying to foreshadow an impending watershed virus attack the likes of Live Free or Die Hard whose fear will cause people to turn from the generative Internet and PC to tethered appliances controlled by corporations.