David Perry, global director of education for security software provider Trend Micro, was recently quoted in PCWorld as saying, “An unprotected [Windows] computer will become owned by a bot within 14 minutes.”
A bot is an automated program that takes over your computer and uses it as a spam machine, to copy your personal information, such as credit cards numbers, or something equally as evil.
One way to spot a bot is to be aware of network activity when you aren’t on the Internet. You can put a network status light in your system tray. If you see it blinking when you are not using the Internet, there might be a problem.
Do this: In Windows XP, choose Start, Control Panel, Network Connections. You will see an icon for your network connection. Right-click the network connection and select Properties from the popup menu. Check “Show icon in notification area when connected,” and click OK.
Remember, lots of unexplained network activity can mean your computer is “owned” by a bot.
Double check by going to one of several free scanning sites such as McAfee Free Scan or Trend Micro’s House-Call. Then buy antivirus software, install a firewall, and never open e-mail attachments from unknown sources.