Risk

9/16/2009
11:01 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Systems Infected Tend To Stay Infected

Think most PC and end point infections are quick hits? Think again. Research released today shows that once infected, systems tend to stay that way for a long, long time.

Think most PC and end point infections are quick hits? Think again. Research released today shows that once infected, systems tend to stay that way for a long, long time.Quite some time ago -- the summer and fall of 2001 to be exact -- the notion of having good Internet hygiene enforced by ISPs or some other authority had gained some traction. It made sense after all, following the nasty virulent spread of the likes of Code Red and Nimda worms and a bunch of other Windows nastiness. It was poor system maintenance that made these attacks so prevalent, and as the fan of any zombie movie will tell you -- the more infected there are the more danger there is for the uninfected.

Research published by anti-virus software maker Trend Micro reminded me of those crazy worms-spreading-across-the-Internet-faster-than-you-can-say "patch" days. There are people, some maybe even in your own family, that place us all at significant risk:

Industry experts have previously estimated that, on average, a compromised machine remains infected for 6 weeks. However, our latest research indicates that this estimate is far from accurate. During the analysis of approximately 100 million compromised IP addresses, we identified that half of all IP addresses were infected for at least 300 days.

That's a fairly sobering finding. And it certainly substantiates the point that users who fail to patch and keep a their systems clean jeopardize us all. In fact, that's much more true today than it was in the summer of 2001.

Consider this, also from the research Trend Micro published today:

Once a machine becomes compromised, it is not unusual to find it has become part of a wider botnet. Botnets frequently cause damage in the form of malware attacks, fraud, information theft and other crimes. In 2009, virtually all malware tracked by Trend Micro experts are used by cybercriminals to steal information.

While I'm not a proponent of the idea of having the Internet hygiene police lock infected systems off of the Internet -- stats like these make it tougher to argue against the idea. Perhaps, at the very least, ISPs that notice suspicious traffic emanating from the systems of their customers could drop them an e-mail and introduce them to a bar of patch updates and a good anti-malware rinse.

For my mobile security and technology observations, follow @georgevhulme.

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