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More than one million computers on the net have been hijacked to attack websites and pump out spam and viruses.
The huge number was revealed by security researchers who have spent months tracking more than 100 networks of remotely-controlled machines.
Some botnets are used to send spam: you can rent a botnet. The operators give you a SOCKS v4 server list with the IP addresses of the hosts and the ports their proxy runs on.
There are simple checks you can do too - is your PC continually working (eg. the hard drive chattering) even when you're not doing anything? Is the modem light constantly flickering as traffic passes through even though you've got no applications running? Does the machine continually run slow?
A lot of these zombies are running unpatched machines with broadband connections and no firewall. They are usually in the hands of home users with little technical knowledge.
I have often wondered where the proxies I buy come from :)
Only half a joke, that ;) When you see lists of "anonymous proxies" floating around, they are often misconfigured home machines rather than real servers.
All such useless background nonsense should be disabled. I've only ever been caught by one virus, but it was hard disk activity that gave it away within seconds of my system becoming infected. Total infection time, a few minutes - I rebooted in another version of Windows and blasted that virus into oblivion.