Invasion of the Computer Snatchers Hackers are hijacking thousands of PCs to spy on users, shake down online businesses, steal identities and send millions of pieces of spam. If you think your computer is safe, think again
By Brian Krebs Sunday, February 19, 2006; W10
In the six hours between crashing into bed and rolling out of it, the21-year-old hacker has broken into nearly 2,000 personal computers around the globe. He slept while software he wrote scoured the Internet for vulnerable computers and infected them with viruses that turned them into slaves.
Now, with the smoke of his day's first Marlboro curling across the living room of his parents' brick rambler, the hacker known online as "0x80" (pronounced X-eighty) plops his wiry frame into a tan, weathered couch, sets his new laptop on the coffee table and punches in a series of commands. At his behest, the commandeered PCs will begin downloading and installing software that will bombard their users with advertisements for pornographic Web sites. After the installation, 0x80 orders the machines to search the Internet for other potential victims.
The young hacker, who has agreed to be interviewed only if he isn't identified by name or home town, takes a deep drag of his smoke and leans back against the couch to exhale. He smiles. This is his day job, and his work is finished in less than two minutes. In two weeks, he will receive a $300 check from one of the online marketing companies that pays him for his services.