The network of compromised Microsoft Windows computers under the thumb of the criminals who control the Storm Worm has grown so huge that it now has more raw distributed computing power than all of the world's top supercomputers, security experts say.
Estimates on the number of machines infected by Storm range from one million to 10 million, depending upon which security sources you believe. But hardly anyone would argue that many thousands of new PCs are being stricken by the worm each day, largely because the worm authors are continuously changing their tactics to trick people into installing it.
Massive pools of virus or worm-infected PCs, known as "botnets," are principally used to blast out spam, host scam Web sites, or to flood targeted Web sites with so much junk traffic all at once that they simply crash and are rendered unreachable by legitimate visitors. But the criminals who control these infected machines could just as easily use them to do some serious number-crunching, the kind of computational analysis typically left to the world's fastest supercomputers.
In a posting today to a data security mailing list, Peter Gutmann, a computer science professor with the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said the Storm botnet could easily outperform IBM's BlueGene/L, currently the top-ranked supercomputer on the planet.
Brian Krebs on Computer Security. The Washington Post Company