The U.S. Department of Defense won't reveal what it knows about the size
and extent of Internet weapons out there, but civilian researchers will.
Symantec, for example, reported that at the end of 2006, there were at least
six million computers illegally controlled by hackers. These PCs are called zombies
(or bots), and they can be used as weapons in a Cyber War. What was more
disquieting was that the number of bot networks (botnets) had declined 25
percent, indicating a smaller number of organizations commanding larger
botnets. Nearly all of these botnets are used for making money, and a botnet of
100,000 PCs can make you a millionaire. But such a botnet can also be a
powerful weapon in wartime, or at any time. A botnet can launch massive probe
of military networks, seeking
weaknesses, which can then be exploited to turn some military PCs into
bots, or just grab some secrets and scoot.
Interestingly, China had a disproportionate number
of the zombies (26 percent, compared to less than ten percent of the worlds
PCs). This can be explained by the widespread use of pirated software, and low
use of security software (which is more difficult to pirate, because you need a
paid account to keep it updated against new threats.) A disproportionate number
of the botnets were being controlled from the United States. Thus while China
may be leading the way in developing Cyber War capabilities, it is the United
States that currently plays host to most of the Internet criminals, who control
a disproportionate number of Chinese PCs to run their scams. Go figure.