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Report predicts the rise of self-healing botnets in 2010

(John E. Dunn, TechWorld ) The world is not only losing the war against spam, the situation might be about to get a whole lot worse with the emergence of a new type of automatic botnet able to thrive without direct human control, Symantec's MessageLabs division has warned.

MessageLabs reckons this is a sign that today's botnets have been modified to more quickly adapt to the loss of a particular nodes, transferring traffic through different channels in a matter of days or even hours. The speed of response necessary requires self-healing behaviour, including the use of encrypted channels for control based on P2P principles.

MessageLabs' Paul Wood predicts that during the coming year, botnets will migrate to a design based on "inbuilt self-sufficient code" able to adapt to anti-botnet activities and so improve their survival chances. The company has detected 5 million PCs that are now working on behalf of the botnets.

Previosuly considered a way of foiling the mass creation of email account to channel spam and get around reputation services based on trusting a whitelist of domains, CAPTCHA was now being defeated by individuals in sweat shops paid small sums to manually create accounts.

So what do reports such as this tell us that we might not have known a year ago? An important underlying theme is that criminality has now burrowed deep into the fabric of the Internet in ways that make tacking problems such as spam almost impossible.

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