Microsoft identified botnets as the largest cyber crime challenge to be tackled

Botnets have been described as a 'launch pad for cyber crime'.

In the ninth security intelligence report from Microsoft covering the period January to June 2010, with data captured from Microsoft products and tools, it claimed that the US had the most botnet infections (2.2 million), with the UK the second highest in Europe behind Spain and ahead of Germany.

In terms of the highest ratio of botnet infection, South Korea was found to have the highest incidence of botnet infection (14.6 botnet infections per 1,000 computers scanned) followed by Spain (12.4) and Mexico (11.4).

The world's most prevalent botnet was found to be Rimecud, with infections up by 860 per cent in the last three months of 2009. With 70 per cent fewer infections is the Alureon botnet.

However, the report also claimed that the number of new vulnerability disclosures fell by 7.9 per cent in the first half of 2010, compared with the second half of 2009. The number of medium and high vulnerability disclosures also fell by 10.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively in the same period.

In a keynote address at the RSA Europe Conference, Adrienne Hall, general manager of the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing group, said that botnets sit at the heart of the cyber crime infrastructure and allow criminals to perpetrate spam, phishing, identity theft, click fraud and advance fee fraud.

She said: “It is clear that their controllers, known as bot-herders, work hard to sustain, maintain and grow them for financial gain. We've known for years that an online black market exists and that cyber crime specialists trade with each other. The insight in SIRv9 shows that, in many cases, certain classes of malware are being used with specific botnets to propagate different forms of cyber crime.

“Despite signs that developers are writing more security-enhanced code and data breaches are going down, the botnet threat in the report shows we must remain vigilant. Our advice is to use up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall, install security updates for all software, upgrade to the latest version of operating systems and products, such as Windows 7 and Office 2010, employ strong passwords and, for businesses, implement and enforce a robust security policy.”

Graham Titterington, principal analyst at Ovum, said: “It's clear that the evolution of the botnet is a major concern and something Microsoft is taking extremely seriously.  As well as the prominent rise in infections on a global scale, data from this year's report has also shown that cyber criminals are now using more sophisticated techniques like botnets to further their reach of potential victims.”

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