The InfoSec Blog
5May/09

The U.S. has 18 percent of its machines controlled by botnets

Using a botnet to send spam

http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=17459&tag=nl.e589

A short while ago I read an article that tried to present both sides of the issue of whether companies should shut down their desktop machines at night.

The 'pro' was of course the saving of electricity - all good and "Green".

The 'con' was that this saving would be offset by the cost in time as employees waited for the machines to book and waited while they shut down - the latter to make sure that they didn't hang.

The article didn't discuss home users. I'm sure home users would appreciate the savings and be willing to devote the time 🙂 While many people work from home and many children use computers from home, I don't think there is a need for an 'always on' computer in the home.
(Unless you count the fridge or the microwave or the VCR clock ..)

Would turning those computers off affect that botnet? Perhaps. I've certainly met people who when they learn I'm involved with IT ask me why their computer runs slower than when they bought it. I ask if they run AV or other anti-malware software, purge adware ... I rarely hear from them again but when I do its to say that some tool like "Search-and-destroy" told them they had gazillions of malware. And they ask me where it comes from.

I don't know, I run Linux.

But that argument against turning off corporate machines is specious at many levels. Most of the staff at my clients seem to use laptops rather than desktop machines. They take them to meetings and presentations, sometimes they take them home. All this involves turning off and on. If they don't take them home at night those laptops have to be locked away, not left on the desk top. That's been policy everywhere I've worked this last decade.

The limiting case was one year I worked in a port-a-kabin.
The sub-zero overnight temperatures meant none of the workstations were operative. So we turned on the cabin heating all the electrics, all the machinery and went to get a coffee (aka "breakfast"). Half an hour later the cabin was warm enough for the electronics to operate. We were not allowed to leave the cabin powered up overnight.

Would shutting down the home machines each night reduce the level of spam? Perhaps. That's an incentive over and above the Green one of saving electricity. Perhaps some service provider service technician should recommend this over and above regular 'purges'.

The McAfee report doesn't make a clear distinction between commercial and residential hosts for the botnets, though it does mention some government agencies and banking institutions in Russia are
malware-laden. The large corporations that make up my clients have always had IT departments that support good front-end filtering and making sure that the workstations have up to date AV software. That being said, I see a lot of people who turn off their AV software. Myth or not, many still believe it affects performance.

Of course I run Linux and I don't have to worry about rogue ActiveX, and I don't run attachments I get in the mail and there are many sites I simply don't visit!

And I turn my home machines off at night.

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Posted by Anton Aylward

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