Ghosts in the machine: The spooky world of zombie computers

by | Oct 5, 2023

Boy dressed as a zombie using zombie computer
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When you hear the word “zombie,” you probably think of a grotesque creature stumbling towards you, hoping to chomp on your brains. But did you know that your computer can be infected by a zombie virus too? You may not have ever heard of a zombie computer—also known as a botnet—and how dangerous they can be. What exactly is a zombie computer? Learn more about how you can protect yourself and your devices from this deadly virus.

Welcome to the spooky world of zombie computers

A zombie computer refers to any device that’s been compromised by a virus or hacker. For example, hackers can breach your computer and install malware on it. While your computer won’t turn into a bloodthirsty monster, it’s still very dangerous. Once they’ve ‘infected’ your device, they can remotely manipulate your computer to spread the virus and claim more victims.

Most zombie computers are home-based machines owned and used by normal people. The worst part is users rarely suspect hackers have taken over their computers.

What’s a zombie attack?

You’ve probably seen a zombie attack on TV, but that isn’t the type of zombie attack we’re talking about here. In the tech world, a zombie attack is when thousands of computers are remotely controlled by hackers in a coordinated incident. These infected computers work together to achieve a common goal, such as stealing data or phishing users with spam.

Hackers also use zombie computers to store and distribute illegal files. Because zombie attacks are cheap and hard to detect, hackers love to use zombie computers to launch spam at unsuspecting users. By directing many requests to a single website simultaneously, hackers can slow down or even crash that website’s servers, also known as a DDoS attack.

Man falling victim to a zombie virus

What are the symptoms of a virus?

Unlike in the zombie apocalypse, it can be difficult to detect whether your computer has become a zombie. Since these infected devices are primarily used for polluting other computers, hackers are great at avoiding detection. It’s important to know how to tell if you’ve been hacked.

There are still some clues to keep an eye out for. If your computer has been compromised, you might notice the following issues:

  • Intermittent and random crashes
  • Overall slower speeds
  • Antivirus software warning you of potential security threats
  • High CPU or RAM usage
  • Missing files or folders
  • Unknown processes running in the background

If you notice any of these issues occurring, you may be the owner of an infected computer.

Is there a cure for infected computers?

The best way to recover from a zombie attack is painful but necessary: a complete system wipe. Hopefully, you have a backed-up hard drive so you don’t lose any important files. If you have a personal firewall, you may be able to detect the specific application on your computer that’s giving hackers access to your machine. Make sure your firewall is set to the maximum-security level; this will require notifications for any application seeking access.

It’s usually better to wipe your computer completely rather than assume you’ve caught all the malicious software. The best thing you can do is prevent yourself from becoming infected in the first place!

Person typing on a computer

How to keep your devices safe from a zombie virus

To keep your computer safe and prevent it from turning into a zombie, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links or email attachments. Instead, send them straight to your Trash folder and permanently remove them from your account.
  • Be mindful of what you download and install. Never open or download attachments from unverified sources. If you need to download a program, do it from the official webpage.
  • Run regular in-depth antivirus scans. Make sure your antivirus and firewall are on at all times and up to date.
  • Use an anti-malware and anti-spam program compatible with your antivirus and firewall.

If you want to learn more about how to help protect your devices from zombies and other monsters, visit the Quantum Fiber blog. There, you can learn how to secure your WiFi (and why you should) and how a VPN can help protect you.

Content Disclaimer - All content is for informational purposes only, may require user’s additional research, and is provided “as is” without any warranty, condition of any kind (express or implied), or guarantee of outcome or results. Use of this content is at user’s own risk. All third-party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with Quantum Fiber. If Quantum Fiber products and offerings are referenced in the content, they are accurate as of the date of issue. Quantum Fiber services are not available everywhere. Quantum Fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location but, in limited circumstances, Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds. ©2024 Q Fiber, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quantum, Quantum Fiber and Quantum Fiber Internet are trademarks of Quantum Wireless LLC and used under license to Q Fiber, LLC.

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