August 27, 2009

Rogue global computer plan still threat

A powerful global software problem still mystifies top security experts eager to do away with it and trace its origins and purpose, observers say.

The program is known as Conficker and it reportedly has exposed serious weaknesses as it used flaws in Windows to create a virtual, shadowy computer system in more than 200 countries, The New York Times reports.

These so-called zombie programs, said to be numbering more than 5 million, can be commanded remotely by its authors and appear to observers to have potential power dwarfing that of the world's largest data centers.

Alarmed by the program's quick spread after its debut in November, computer security experts decoded the program and developed anti-virus software that erased it from millions of computers. But, experts say Conficker's persistence and sophistication has proved such global computer infections are still a threat.

Researchers speculate the computer program could be employed to generate vast amounts of spam or steal information like passwords and logins by capturing keystrokes on infected computers.

They also say the program was not designed by a criminal gang but rather possibly by an intelligence agency or the military of a country to monitor or disable an enemy's computers.