Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Taipei has 9% of region's bot-infected computers

GLOBAL THREAT Hackers can use bot-infected systems to steal ID information, passwords and financial data, as well as set up 'zombie' networks for malicious attacks

By Wang Pei-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

A report on global threats to the Internet said that Taipei, with approximately 186,000 bot-infected computers, accounted for 9 percent of all Web bot infections in the Asia-Pacific region.

Taiwan has almost 250,000 bot-infected computers, 12 percent of the total in the region at the end of last year, which constitutes the second-largest threat among countries in the region.

The Internet Security Threat Report, compiled by anti-virus company Symantec Corporation, advises computer users in Taiwan to regularly check their computers for viruses.

The report, released on April 14, provides a six-month update of Internet threats, alerting computer users to current and impending threats that the anti-virus company has observed.

Symantec said China ranked No. 1 in the report for bot-infected computers, accounting for 58 percent of the regional total and 13 percent of the global total.

Taipei ranked No. 7 among cities in the region in the 2007 report, accounting for 4 percent of the total at that time.

Nicholas Hsiao (蕭松瀛), Symantec’s chief technology adviser, said the rapid growth in bot-infected computers was the result of the high availability of optical-fiber networks nationwide.

Hsiao said computers compromised by hackers and computer viruses were referred to as “zombies” because their owners were unaware that they had been infected.

Owners of infected computers could lose their ID information, passwords and even financial data.Zombies are also used to perform malicious tasks such as sending spam e-mails.

Hisao said most attacks originated in the US, followed by China. But the Chinese attacks may have a greater impact on Taiwan than the US attacks because servers for cross-strait crimes are mostly placed in China to avoid police investigation. Since the people on the two sides share the same language, it is easier for Chinese hackers to send messages using familiar words as Taiwanese users are not alert to them.

“Safe online behavior and anti-virus software are equally important,” Hsiao said on Wednesday. “In addition to repairing computer vulnerabilities quickly and updating anti-virus codes, perhaps unplugging your Internet cable and turning off your computer when you do not use it is the best solution.”

In response to the report, Information Security magazine released a list of companies and organizations with bot-infected computers yesterday.

The list showed that some of the most famous Web sites in Taiwan had been hacked, ranging from online stores to high-tech companies and public universities. Watsons, the nation’s largest health and cosmetics retailer, and the Graduate Institute of Information Systems and Applications at National Tsing Hua University were on the list.

Shih Chia-hua (侍家驊), the magazine’s editor-in-chief, said on Wednesday that Taiwanese companies have ignored the seriousness of the problem, failing to ensure the safety of their own Web sites. Since the government has not yet established an agency responsible for this, the public is left to suffer Internet attacks.

Websense, a leading Web security company, said 77 percent of the world’s top 100 Web sites were bot-infected. Shih said that the percentage was close to this level or even higher in Taiwan, calling on both the government and the public to pay attention.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY YANG YA-MIN

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