In some eastern European country, an overweight 35 year old guy sits on a broken computer chair in the corner of his dirty apartment. His dilapidated home is packed to the ceiling full of boxes of Viagra, ‘discount watches’ and penis enlargement pills. The sly grin on his face is illuminated by the half-dozen computer screens showing how rapidly his pirated version of Microsoft Outlook is sending emails to us law abiding citizens in Australia… with all subjects reading: Cheap V!agr@ 4 you - 29.99!!
Is that how you imagined all those spam emails make it to your inbox? Well prepare yourself for the shocking truth. That overweight, 35 year old eastern European “criminal”… might be YOU!
Alright, I hear you - “Are you kidding me? I’m not the one sending all that rubbish… I spend half my day deleting it!!” But before you fly off the handle, consider this: According to a 2006 survey by webroot.com, 25.6% of Australian PCs are infected with Spyware/Adware or some other form of malicious software (known as ‘malware’). Sometimes that software is used to track your internet useage, collect personal information or randomly load ads onto your screen… and other times, it’s used to turn your computer into a ‘zombie‘.
A ‘zombie’ computer is one which has been compromised by a computer hacker, virus or trojan horse. Generally a ‘zombie’ PC is one of thousands, or millions, in a “botnet” and will be used to perform malicious tasks of one sort or another. Most owners of ‘zombie’ computers are unaware that their system is being used in this way.
While you chat away to your friends on Facebook, watch videos on Youtube, pay for your internet connection and delete all that spam email, your PC is being used to assist in a variety of criminal activities - Attacking websites, taking down servers, hosting child-pornography, and more commonly, send spam email. As of 2005, an estimated 50–80% of all spam worldwide was sent by zombie computers.
Let me just quickly sum it all up so it sinks in - One in four Australian PCs are infected with unwanted software (including ‘zombie’ software) which could be used to send spam!
How do I know if I’m infected?
On the surface, you won’t have a clue. The spyware/malware is designed so that the user has no idea their computer is a zombie. But there is software available that will scan your PC and remove any unwanted programs. Here are a couple of freebies:
These are free versions of anti-virus and spyware detection software, but I strongly recommend you invest in some long term protection. Do you really want to contribute to the spam problem and possibly allow someone to read your personal banking details at the same time? Don’t take the risk, for the benefit of us all:
So before you vow to hunt down that spammer who implies you need a penis enlargement, take the time to install some anti-virus/spyware-detection and keep your PC clean. Also, if you’re getting alot of spam and want to get rid of it, check out my blog post on “the best way to setup your email“.