Written by Jarda
Several weeks ago, I received a call from my ISP's Security Department. The lady, who was a little short on etiquette, launched into this short story about having to suspend my account due to the fact that someone had hijacked my email login and password. Well, I was at that time not on the Internet but was at my desk so I cranked up the old PC and hit connect on my DSL icon. Well, that's as far as I got: there was no way I was going to connect using my ISP's icon.
Oh no, "Don't tell me I have been relegated once again to using a dial up account," I said to myself. My DSL is slow enough as it is and I have the fastest available broadband connection there is so I can't imagine how slow dial up is going to be?
The Security Agent told me that all was not lost. But there were certain things that I had to do in order to "plug the hole" that the hacker had crawled through. The first thing I had to do was to make sure that my firewall was activated and working properly. And if I did not have a firewall, I was going to have to find a suitable one and upload and install it to my system. In my case, I already have a firewall in place: however, I did go into preferences and set the filters to high, which makes them quite a bit more sensitive and makes my PC less vulnerable to a hackers breaking through the protection that is in place.
Although I had only recently changed my password for access to this account, I also had to do so again. Actually, once Security reactivated my account, they had already switched passwords for me so all I had to do is go in and change it to something I wanted.
As a next step, if I did not have a current and up to date virus protection program, I would have to buy and install one of those too. This crook of a hacker could have cost me a couple of hundred dollars in hard cold cash just in software costs alone, not to mention the damage he was doing by controlling my PC email and using my bandwidth. Fortunately, I also had a current anti-virus software program running so I did not have to buy one. (A Lot of good it did me, huh? I guess everything has its weaknesses.)
The primary reason my ISP chose my account to shut down was due to the fact that my account had all of a sudden received several thousand complaints. The assumption is that the hackers added my PC to their botnet of zombies to compromise my email account in order to send out a large quantity of spam emails, many of which filed complaints with my ISP. I didn't know about this sort of thing before but found that it is quite normal for hackers to gain access to a remote computers email account, then set up fake email addresses and then they hit the send button and plaster the Internet with their viruses, worms or Trojan horses. In my case, there about 15 bogus email addresses on my account. They must have sent out hundreds of thousands of spam emails from my email address before my ISP was tipped off.
Unknown to me, my computer had been enlisted into a botnet (a collection of robots or bots which run autonomously). The term botnet generally refers to a collection of compromised computers running programs. These botnets are run in the background so the average computer user is not aware of their presence until notified by their ISP Security people like I was. Each computer that is compromised is referred to as a zombie computer. Zombie computers are machines that have been compromised by a super cracker, a computer virus, or a Trojan horse. A botnet (network) is made of a multitude of zombie computers, often times hundreds of zombie computers.
Zombies are used extensively to send email spam: in 2006 an astounding estimated 80%-85% of email spam was delivered by botnets through their zombie computer networks. When a spammer uses a zombie computer to send spam email, it allows them to avoid detection and also reduces their bandwidth costs as they are using your email account to send these nefarious spam emails. So there is also theft of services involved with botnets hackers.
If you are notified that your system has been compromised there are ways to rid yourself of the zombie designation. The very first thing, as mentioned, is to ensure that you have an anti-virus program running and that your anti-virus software is current and up to date. You must make sure that you have set your software up to update automatically in order for it to be able to catch the most recent viruses that may infect your PC. Then you need to run your virus protection program and clean out any virus that is found. If you do not have an anti-virus program or if you have a hard time spending the $50.00 or more most software companies will charge you, then may I recommend that you go to AVG dot com and download their free anti-virus software. It is reputed to be every bit as good as the paid kind. Actually, I recommended to my daughter recently that she install AVG and she is delighted with it.
Another critical step to take is to ensure that you also have a firewall set up to protect your PC from hacker attacks. The firewalls main function is to isolate one network (compartment) from another in your PC but still allow traffic to flow but to make a long story short, it detects an attempt by a hacker to access and control your system and blocks same from doing so. If you need a firewall but have a hard time digesting the cost of the more popular brands, then may I suggest that you go to zonealarm.com and download their free firewall software. You may also wish to check out the Comodo free firewall software which can be found by going to personalfirewall.comodo.com.
In order to learn more about these topics, you wish to run a keyword search for botnets, zombie computers, spammers or spam email or any other appropriate term you can think of. Thanks for reading!
Jimmy Oakley is an Internet Marketer that markets many of the most sought after Advance Email Marketing and Internet Marketing Courses online: the courses he markets are continuosly updated and never outdated. Learn the right ways of marketing on the Internet at the most acceptable prices you will find! Visit his Grand Slam Special Event now! Jimmy invites you to visit http://www.theinternetbizwizards.com/spg1.html now and find out how to learn Advanced Email Marketing methods and Internet Marketing techniques taught nowhere else.