An internet zombie is a computer that has been hacked or infected by a computer virus and can be controlled from a distant location. Recent cyber attacks on various United States banks have drawn attention to the danger associated with computer zombies. In September 2012 Bank of America, PNC Bank and Wells Fargo came under attack and their customers were blocked out of their accounts. This article discusses this internet phenomena and how it could affect the global financial future.
Internet zombies are very often the source of spam Email. Some estimate that up to 80% of all spam comes from zombie computers. This helps hackers and spammers escape detection as they send the spam from a computer at a remote location. Trojan horses (harmful programs disguised as useful programs) are also spread by spammers using computer zombies.
Threat to Banks
The recent disturbance concerning US banks came from what is called a distributed denial-of-service attack. This is basically an entire army of internet zombies all acting at once to flood target websites. This assault overwhelms the banking system and users can not access their bank accounts. The latest incident left PNC users without online banking services for at least 3 hours. A variation to this type of attack is called a distribution degradation-of-service attack where smaller flooding pulses are sent to slow systems down. These pulses are theoretically harder to detect.
History of Internet Zombies
This type of internet hacker activity has been going on for years and is likely to continue. In 2000 the websites Yahoo!, Ebay and CNN.com were shut down completely due to the activity of a teenage hacker from Canada. In 2009 the Sexy Space text SMS worm invaded the Nokia operating systems bringing the problem of internet zombies to the smartphone world. User of BlackBerry phones in the United Arab Emirates were victims of this type of cyber attack as well.
It is believed that the recent internet zombie cyber attacks on US banks came from the Middle East and maybe Iran. This is possibly the first time that an attack from the Middle East has affected the US infrastructure in such a widespread manner. A group of internet hackers named Izz ad-Din al-Qassam had warned banks that they would attack in response to the recent controversial film, “The Innocence of Muslims” which mocked the Muslim faith and caused widespread protest and violence across the Arab nations.
Is your money safe?
In this most recent attack there were no reports of money being stolen due to the internet zombies. In other cases, however, bank accounts have been accessed by hackers and money was wired out of these accounts in amounts approaching one million dollars. If these computer zombies get wide access to the internals of banking systems the financial chaos could be devastating.
In today’s day and age, the interconnectedness that the internet provides creates many opportunities but also many dangers. Internet zombies, which allow for computers to be controlled from a remote site, are one of the most disruptive of these online dangers.