Due to a number of factors (such as the fast paced, global and highly secretive nature of botnets) it is difficult to put together a chronological and linear ‘history of the botnet’. Notwithstanding this state of affairs, it is possible to chart numerous important and (arguably) ‘iconic’ points in the recent history of the botnet, for example:  

  • The late nineties and the beginning of a new millennium brought a new strategy of attack against network systems.
  • Botnets have become utilised all over the world (as noted above) and the main motivations (in recent times) for running a botnet have shifted from ‘curiosity’ or ‘joyriding’ to ‘monetary’. Whereas in the 1990s malware was utilised to disrupt computers for malicious fun, in 2012 malware writers wish to utilise computers for their own purposes.
  • In October 2005 Dutch police uncovered a major botnet that consisted of a staggering 1.5 million compromised computers and was run by just three individuals (who were all in their twenties).
  • Botnets continue to become more widespread, with the United States believed to be the country most affected. Statistics have suggested that the United States may house 26% of all botnets and that as many as 25% of all US computers might be part of a botnet. It is important to remember, however, that it is difficult to know if such statistics are accurate.
  • A particularly unsavoury fact that is that the growth of botnets has attracted teenagers known as ‘script kiddies’ who compete in building botnets.
  • Hackers are now using Twitter to send coded update messages to computers they’ve previously infected with rogue code.
  • There was a time (even as late as 2006) when a big botnet comprised of hundreds, or at most, thousands of infected machines. Those days are long gone however, as contemporary botnets dwarf their predecessors. The Srizi botnet is thought to have about 250,000 infected computers, while the later Conficker botnet is estimated to have anywhere from 9 million to 15 million computers, depending on the source cited.
  • Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in California are creating what is in effect a vast digital ‘petri dish’ able to hold one million operating systems at once in an effort to study the behaviour of rogue programs known as botnets.
  • Teenagers (in the United Kingdom) have been convicted of setting up a huge network of compromised Windows PCs to gain an unfair advantage in online gaming, not to send spam.
  • The first half of 2004 saw a huge increase in ‘zombie’ PCs. Their average numbers rose between January and June from under 2,000 to more than 30,000 per day (peaking at 75,000 on one day).