The number of PCs infected with viruses that allow them to be controlled by botnets increased sevenfold in 2010, according to a report
from computer security firm Damballa.
This is despite a large drop in the amount of spam sent in December last year, which was largely attributed to one of the most prolific botnets, Rustock, nearly grinding to a halt.
Rustock has an estimated 250,000 PCs or 'zombies' under its control, and it can sneakily wait up to five days before deploying iteself in an attempt to conceal the infection.
Botnets are used to send spam and also steal users' data, providing unsavoury individuals with access to their victims' bank accounts, for example.
While PC security has generally improved during the same period, The Register
reports that botnet DIY construction kits (software packs usually available for many thousands of pounds that enable the purchaser to create their own botnet or tap into an existing one) have improved dramatically.
According to the article, 'six of the 10 biggest botnets of 2010 weren't in existence the previous year. New infection technology that targets a hard disk's master boot record and changes the machine's boot options also played a role.'
The worrying news comes soon after the EU's statistics office revealed that nearly a third of PCs in Europe
were infected with a virus in 2010.
2011 looks like it could be a particularly troublesome year for software security firms, and a costly one for PC users. Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the forums