IT security and data protection company, Sophos, has called on computer users around the world to participate in "Kill-A-Zombie Day" on Saturday 31 October, also known in some cultures as Halloween.
Millions of computers around the world, in homes and business premises, are – without the knowledge of their owners – under the control of cybercriminals who commandeer the PCs to send spam, distribute malware and commit identity theft.
Billions of spam messages are sent every day, with over 99% determined to be relayed from innocent users' computers that have been hijacked and turned into a "zombie". Hackers control networks of zombie computers, known as a botnet, in order to silently send out adverts that peddle sexual enhancement drugs or questionable financial deals, distribute scareware attacks to trick users out of their credit card details, access social networking accounts, and spread further malicious attacks.
"If your computer has been turned into a zombie then a hacker has complete control of your PC. That means they can read everything you type, see every website you visit, as well as spam out adverts through your internet connection without your knowledge," explains Brett Myroff, CEO of regional Sophos distributor, Sophos South Africa. "It's all too easy to be part of the spam and malware problem, but it's clearly time for people to take a stand."
He adds that the answer is to keep computer security up to date with anti-virus software, security patches and firewalls. “We need more people around the world to wake up to this truly global problem. Halloween would be the perfect opportunity to scare hackers off your computer by scanning it for threats."
Sophos recommends companies automatically update their corporate virus protection and run a consolidated solution at their email and web gateways to defend against viruses and spam.