I’ve been following the news on Downadup/Conficker, the largest botnet ever created/perpetuated to date. If you’re not familiar with it, Conficker is a computer “worm” that has infected an estimated 9 million Windows computers to date. It is essentially a large computer network, at the direction of *someone*, and no one knows at this point who that someone is, and what he or she (or them) may want to do with it. This botnet may end up being nothing; it may be the largest spam headache we’ve ever experience; it may be worse.
You can chart developments on sites like Symantec, or follow the SANS Internet Storm Center. The latest news on this botnet is a number of IT companies have decide to put up a stronger front in the fight:
Firms, including Microsoft Corp., Symantec Corp. and VeriSign Inc., have joined ICANN, the nonprofit group that manages the Internet Domain Name System, to preemptively register and remove from circulation the Internet addresses that the worm’s controllers use to maintain their hold on infected machines, said Gerry Egan, director of product management in Symantec’s security response group.
Separately, Microsoft has offered a $250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of the hackers who created and launched the worm.
In any case, I’ve been trying to think of how to correlate this into something related to media theory. I’m not there yet, but certainly Galloway and Thacker’s The Exploit is an obvious starting point. Their thesis is essentially “the network” has become the dominant cultural paradigm, and we seen this in both positive and negative ways. So that the same mechanisms and forces that make, for example, music file-sharing or Facebook or online politics so powerful are the same forces that can perpetuate terror networks or things like the Conficker botnet.
The fact is that Conficker is endemic to our cyber-lives; it, and the no doubt larger, more pervasive, and more dangerous botnets that will eventually come along in the future, are a by-product of the connectedness we share, both online and off.