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New York City Most Bot-Infested In the Nation

New York City, the nation's most populous city, also is home to the greatest number of computers infected with a class of viruses that allows hackers to use them remotely for spamming or attacking others online, according to a new report from Internet security firm Symantec Corp.

That dubious honor comes from the March 2005 edition of its "Internet Security Threat Report," in which Symantec rated the cities with the most number of "bots" -- geek slang for robots. A bot in this case is a computer infected a virus that gives the virus-author the power to corral the infected PC and link it into vast armies of "zombie" machines that they can control for a variety of nefarious activities.

Symantec says tracking the most bot-infested cities helps security experts keep tabs on the areas most likely to be the source of bot-related Internet attacks. The numbers may also say something about the general level of security awareness in those areas (that is, how many "newbie" Internet users there are in the region.)

The report speculates that a city's rate of bot infection is related to two factors -- the size of the city and the rate of broadband adoption in that city (i.e. the rate at which new Internet users are coming online using high-speed Internet access lines). The second part of that equation may or may not be true: As of Jan. 2004, 66.8 percent of all home Internet users in New York City had broadband connections, the fourth-highest percentage among U.S. cities, according a report from the Council of the City of New York. But that percentage has almost certainly increased since then, and the report said nothing about what percentage of those users had only recently adopted broadband.

In the Americas region, New York was actually third behind Montreal and Toronto in terms of harboring bot-plagued PCs. According to Symantec, Toronto is home to 5 percent of the region's bots, while New York and Montreal each host around 3 percent.

Globally, New York City is the 20th most bot-ridden. The cities with the most bot-infected PCs worldwide are Winsford, United Kingdom, with 7 percent of the world's bots, followed by London, U.K. (5 percent), and Seoul, South Korea (2 percent).

The Symantec report on which this posting is based is only available to Symantec's big-ticket customers -- i.e. not Joe and Sally PC User.

By Brian Krebs  |  June 3, 2005; 2:06 PM ET
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