The number of computer systems hijacked by hackers implanting malicious remote control software, known as bot networks, has risen dramatically over the past six months.
The growth of bot networks, which allow hackers to take control of networks of infected machines pose an increasing risk to businesses, according to new research from Symatec.
The number of systems infected by bots has risen from less than 2,000 a day to over 30,000 systems a day over the first six months of the year, the research reveals.
Bot networks pose a risk to businesses because they allow hackers to exploit new vulnerabilities more quickly and effectively than other techniques, such as creating malicious worms.
Symentec’s research reveals that hackers are increasingly turning their attention to e-commerce sites, which are dependent on internet for their financial survival.
E-commerce was the most highly targeted industry sector during the first half of 2004. Small businesses also bore the brunt of a growing number of attacks.
"This rise may indicate that attackers may be shifting from individuals looking for notoriety towards individuals seeking illicit economic rewards. Whether the attacker intends to obtain customers' personal data, steal money or blackmail the company, organisations that depend heavily on their internet presence may be vulnerable to financially motivated attack," said Symantec.
Malicious worm activity has also increased over the past six months, with 40% of the Fortune 100 companies showing signs of infection.
Welchia and related worms accounted for 27% of the infections, slammer 20% and Blaster 11%.