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Monday, Oct. 20, 2008
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Is your computer a zombie?
How can I tell if my computer is a zombie? I used DellConnect, Dell's remote support service. Could an unscrupulous tech use it to put something funky on my computer? Laura in Columbia, MO, listening on KSSZ 93.9 FM
Generally, these computers are used to send spam. The botnet can also be rented to other criminals for use in denial-of-service attacks.
Your computer must be infected with malware to be turned into a zombie. The software runs surreptitiously. That's because the criminals want to use your machine as long as possible. They don't want you to know.
Given this, it is often difficult to tell if your computer is a zombie. Your computer may be sluggish. There could be a lot of causes for this, though.
You would probably also notice new programs on the machine. Access to security sites could be blocked. And your connection speed could slow to a crawl.
Most people don't realize their computer is infected until one of two things happens.
First, they could receive a number of bounced messages. Now, warnings about bounced messages could actually be spam.
However, these should say that a sent message has been blocked. Spam messages generally say that the mail is undeliverable.
It is very unlikely that the returned messages will be those sent by the criminal. The botnet will use a fake address, so as not to tip victims off. Rather, the messages would be returned because of the IP address.
I always recommend that you not open suspected spam messages. Just opening an e-mail these days can infect your machine. So, I wouldn't explore the messages. If you're seeing a lot of them, presume the worst.
The second thing that tips people off is more obvious. They receive a message from their ISP. Their account has been blocked because it's a zombie.
What must you do to clean up your little zombie? Find out here!
• Digital Minute, on your radio: Rumors spread fast online. And the consequences can be serious. Learn about a couple recent rumors.
• Free Download of the Day: For photographing huge subjects, panorama is what you want. Microsoft can help make amazing images.
Tomorrow's Tip, in your e-mail: Is your laptop spying on you?
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