We all know that computer viruses can spread like wildfire, but what with cybersecurity scares hitting the headlines seemingly every other day, people easily become complacent about such things.
At least, they do until they see them from space. And then we get a sharp reminder of just how deadly contagious these things can be.
Security experts at Sophos and F-Secure teamed up to create this intimidating look at how the notorious ZeroAccess botnet has spread its ugly tentacles over the world, and we can see that it’s virtually consumed the entire United States and Western Europe, with more than 9 million computers around the world believed to be infected.
ZeroAccess is truly a pandemic. Discovered in 2010, its proven to be unstoppable, mutating and evolving as it bounces its way back and forth across the world, affecting millions of PCs. One could only imagine the mass panic there would be if each of those red triangles represented bird flu instead of a computer virus.
Sophos say that ZeroAccess is a Trojan, which infects computers when people visit compromised websites. It isn’t nearly as destructive as something like Shamoon, which not only steals data but erases everything on the computers it infects, nor is it as tough to protect against as Gauss, which has confounded some of the world’s leading security experts. ZeroAccess doesn’t even steal financial data, instead making money through advertising – it works by forcing hundreds of pop-up ads to appear on the screen, and by redirecting users to advertising websites, making money off of each click on these ads.
The ZeroAccess botnet is believed to be one of the largest in the world, and its representation here is a stark reminder of just how pervasive viruses like this can be. Despite the best attempts of security experts, its creators regularly update it to ensure that it can bypass the latest anti-virus software updates.
The illustration is also a sharp reminder that there are no guarantees that your own computer won’t fall victim to a formidable botnet like ZeroAccess, which not only attaches itself to ‘risky’ porn websites, but also many legitimate websites too. Instead, the best that you can do is to be careful about which websites you visit, and be wary of any links sent to you or pop-ups that appear, making sure they are trustworthy before clicking on them.