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Fret about the zombie threat?

ZombieMeter website keeps hourly count of captured computers

Internet users concerned about the number of zombies – virus-infected PCs ready to launch an attack over the web – can at least keep track of how afraid they should be by visiting CipherTrust's new ZombieMeter resource.

The security company added the ZombieMeter to its website this week, offering visitors hourly updated information on the global activity of new zombies by tracking data it receives through its IronMail email security appliances.

Zombies are internet-connected computers that have been infected by malicious code that allows hackers to control them remotely. They are often used to launch denial-of service (DoS) attacks or send unwanted email.

Although CipherTrust only monitors zombie activities based on data from its network of email appliances, it counted an average of 172,009 new zombies a day for the first three weeks in May. Of these, 20 percent are in the US and 15 percent in China. That represents a slight shift from late March and early April, when around 20 percent of the 157,000 new zombies it identified on average each day were in China.

The European Union, meanwhile, was a virtual hothouse for zombies, with 26 percent of new infected machines in its member states during the first three weeks of May, CipherTrust said. Six percent of these were in Germany, 5 percent in France and 3 percent in the UK.

South Korea is also a popular zombie haunt: 10 percent of new infected machines in the first few weeks of May were in that country, CipherTrust said.

While the security company said tracking zombies helps it to identify behavioural patterns and predict threats, it was unclear how the information might aid the average internet user.

"I suppose it might increase your paranoia as a home user, or convince you to update your antivirus software," said one London-based IT manager.

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