A zombie is an undead creature that is able to interact with the land of the living in a physical manner. Often characterized by rotting or decaying flesh, and death. Zombies are often difficult to kill. The common way to kill a zombie is either through decapitation or dismemberment. Zombies are often seen in horror movies and books. Zombies are usually human, but animal zombies exist as well.

See Also: Ghost, Ghoul, Haunting, Undead, Death

A Zombie is the rum drink to end all rum drinks. Observe.

2 1/2 oz Light rum
1 oz Jamaica rum
1/2 oz Apricot flavored brandy
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz passion fruit syrup
juice of 1 lime
juice of one orange
1 tsp powdered sugar
1/2 oz 151-proof rum

Blend all of the ingredients EXCEPT THE 151-PROOF RUM at low speed for one minute with 1/2 cup crushed ice. Strain into a frosted high ball glass. Gently float the 151-proof rum over the top. Decorate it all purty. Consume. Repeat until your level of consciousness is on the level of the drink's namesake. Have another for good measure.

The other nodes cover what a zombie is pretty well. But where else can you find more about the lovable creatures? Well there are plenty of Zombie Movies old and new. They are a great resource for researching the habits of the common zombie, zombie eating habits, zombie mating habits, a good place to kill zombies, zombification (a.k.a. the zombie process), How to survive against zombies, or how to be zombified.

There are also many books that contain info about zombies. Like Green Eyes by Lucius Shepard, The Dead by Michael Swanwick, and the Anita Blake series by Laural K. Hamilton (Anita is an animator and necromancer besides being a Vampire Hunter)

Everybody loves Zombies! Zombies are buff! Even The Son of God gets into the act with Jesus Wants Me For a Zombie, Sweet creeping zombie Jesus, and Sweet zombie Jesus!. Invite The Zombies to play your next party. And don't forget about a Zombie's Best Friend.

Has your neighbor become Some Kind of Zombie? Did you upset the Zombie King? Do you have a zombie infestation or a Zombie Mob? Read HOWTO: Kill Zombies or try out new and improved Zombie Paper. Kill all you want Zombie Inc. is ready, new zombies have been animated to replace the old and we got raw material because more humans have been spewed out of the random people generator.

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies can get the blood pumping but those crazy mixed up kids who stopped living and became zombies are a real scream.

Just be careful when you use the word zombie because calling people "mindless zombies" does not an argument make. All this and I still don't know what a zombied stutter is or what Invasion de los Zombies Atomicos is about.

Yesterday I found a green zombie mixed in with my black zombies. I hope this isn't an indication that thre is a New Breed of Attack Zombies Lurking. Worse yet, a race of redneck zombies. Blech! I'd much rather have some cool upbeat zombies. Maybe one of the keepers at the Zombie Zoo can help me out. I'd hate to have to go all the way to the Zombie College to talk to the Zombie Master. If I could only figure out how to create my own exploding zombies then I could stop wasting money in the zombie lotto

My sister was seduced by an Urban Zombie. She eventually married this filthy zombie and now attends Zombie Jamborees as a part of the Zombie Nation.

Poor Bill & Ted they died and became sleep-crazed zombies. Still two of the more popular zombies though. More popular than Romero Zombies or the Ded Bob Zombies. And nobody has heard of Gravebane Zombie or I, Zombie. Along this same note, you might be surpised to learn that Rob Zombie is not really a zombie and I believe no zombies were harmed in the production of a White Zombie album.

Stuff to add:

A Zombified Meta Node

According to Wade Davis (an ethnobotanist who was working at Harvard at the time), in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow, zombies are made by vodoun witch doctors (bokors)* using a mixture of plant and animal matter.

During his lengthy visit to Haiti, Davis was able to characterize the basic procedure as follows. After the potential victim is identified, crushed glass mixed with a toxic powder is placed by the voodoun priest in a location where the individual will walk. Walking upon this trap cuts open the feet, and results in the toxin being introduced into the blood stream. After the victim is thus poisoned, he/she begins to exhibit a number of symptoms including total paralysis, a cooling of the body temperature, highly reduced respiration rate and very serious delusions. The victim is often taken for dead by his neighbours and family, and is summarily buried. Shortly after everyone leaves, the vodoun priest then unearths the body, and convinces the victim that he/she is now a zombie and is under the strict control of the priest.

As far as Davis was able to determine, this procedure does in fact take place, albeit rarely. The toxic mixture seemed to be, upon scientific analysis, mostly herbs and spices, but there was evidence of the use of a marine worm (polychaete) which contains tetrodotoxin, a powerful nerve poison. Davis believed that the reason why vodoun bokors were able to convince living people they had become zombies was due to the powerful effects of the tetrodotoxin combined with the powerful social belief in the magical power of the witch doctors.

* This is, if I remember correctly, the correct way to spell and refer to the religion widely called voodoo. Also, props go to Cletus the Foetus for correcting my errors in an earlier revision of this w/u.

Why do we need Zombies in UN*X?

A zombie seems like a waste of space. It's a process that' finished executing, but nobody cares enough about it to wait(2) for it! Why bother keeping a slot in the process table for it? Just so that ps can show it, unkillable, complete with that annoying "Z" code, mocking your feeble efforts to free a process?

A zombie is a process that's called exit(). It's given the operating system a return value. It's now the OS' job to ensure this exit code reaches the "caller" -- aka the parent process. The parent process is expected to call one of the wait*() system calls to get this code and "reap" the zombie; until it does so, the zombie stays. A well-written application will do this, possibly using SIGCHLD.

If the parent process never wait()s, the zombie stays forever. If the parent terminates, the zombie is passed on according to the usual UN*X process rules. Eventually it can reach init, which is always wait()ing. Note, however, that a zombie is a process in a very special state. It can only cease to exist. It is never eligible for CPU time (or memory). The only resource it uses up is a process table slot.

Here is the financial or investment definition of a 'Zombie' that has not yet been covered by this substantial node:

A bankrupt or insolvent company which continues to operate while it awaits a closure or merger.


What can I say, it's as simple as that!
In philosophy of mind, a zombie is a person with no inner conscious experience. They may behave and act in a seemingly lucid manner, even providing the appropriate linguistic replies in conversation, but the behaviors are not accompanied by any consciousness. As the popular phrase has it, "the lights are on, but nobody's home."

As discussed by such philosophers as Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers, the concept of zombies is useful for discussing the nature of intentionality. See also martians.

zipperhead = Z = zorch

zombie n. 1.

[Unix] A process that has died but has not yet relinquished its process table slot (because the parent process hasn't executed a wait(2) for it yet). These can be seen in ps(1) listings occasionally. Compare orphan. 2. A machine, especially someone's home box, that has been cracked and is being used as part of a second-stage attack by miscreants trying to mask their home IP address. Especially used of machines being exploited in large gangs for a mechanized denial-of-service attack like Tribe Flood Network; the image that goes with this is of a veritable army of zombies mindlessly doing the bidding of a necromancer.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Important Note:
Zombies are quite hard to kill. Given that they have incredible physical power, you do NOT, I repeat NOT, want to be trading blows with them. Sometimes they want your delicious brains, which you probably want to maintain. Therefore, use the two most common zombie-killing methods:

Fire
Fire, for some reason, does massive damage to the undead. If you have a lighter, use it. If this does not work, and the zombie is slowly advancing towards you, look frantically for accelerants. If you are not in a toolshed and cannot find a conveniently placed container of kerosene, you are near screwed. Only one weapon left . . .

Long Bladed Weapons
Okay, so no go on the fire. You are probably now hearing the creepy music that usually foreshadows the addition of one more to the legions of the undead. Have no fear! Is there a rusty axe, chainsaw, or hopefully katana in the vicinity? If so, you can breathe a sigh of inappropriately timed relief. You want to dismember the zombie (head first, to disorient it) if using a axe, adze, or anything slow. When using a chainsaw or extremely sharp katana, get ready, 'cause it's time for fun. Slice the zombie in two, from between the arm and neck down to the waist. With any luck, your zombie troubles shall be over. Now kill all 500 other zombies, and you will be safe.

Zombies are a powerful element in horror because they have several aspects that are highly useful to the storyteller:

  • They are undead. They are undead, but not cool and well-manicured undead like vampires. Zombies are usually in a state of partial decomposition, or at least extremely dirty and unkempt. They smell really, really, bad.
  • They eat people. Not one another, mind you, but healthy, nice people like that hot lone survivor chick you are desperately hoping to catch in a non-zombie private moment (preferably in a warm, comfortable place with a cache of alcohol) to see if that “last man on earth” thing really works. While many Zombies seem to favor brains, they usually will eat whatever part of your body they can fit in their mouth, and will not really care much if you are still alive while they are doing it.
  • They are hard to kill. It is not unusual to see Zombies missing limbs, or shambling along with their intestines dragging on the ground, or their head split open with brains leaking out. Zombies are incredibly tough and can take a lot of damage before they go down for good. Usually only decapitation (which doesn’t always work, but at least the Zombie is disoriented then) or burning to a cinder can destroy a Zombie.
  • They cooperate with one another. They always seem to form a gang to hunt down any non-Zombies in the area without fighting amongst themselves. They must have some kind of secret Zombie handshake or pheromone that lets them know who is cool to eat and who isn’t. Nothing strikes fear into a victim like seeing a horde of Zombies coming at them. Zombies are perfect soldiers, and will march through fire, heavy casualties, and any obstacle placed in front of them without pause.
  • They are highly contagious. If you let them bite you, scratch you, spit in your eyes, or do anything that allows their fluids to come in contact with yours, you are pretty screwed, and will soon become a Zombie yourself.

There are also some aspects that put their bad features somewhat in balance:

  • They are really stupid. Zombies are dumber than dirt. If you have a weapon or plan that will actually kill them, they will continue to march forward into the line of fire, not realizing that the other Zombies that are dropping/burning/falling into a hole/getting shot exhibit a pattern that will eventually include them. Generally they can’t even operate doorknobs, although some varieties of Zombie are almost as smart as a chimpanzee and can operate simple mechanisms like doors and edged weapons.
  • They can be outrun. They don’t move very quickly, especially the ones that are missing limbs or dragging entrails. If you have room to run, you can generally outdistance them. Only bunker down when you have lots of things to seal the entrances with. It also doesn’t hurt to have plenty of flammables and edged weapons, to burn the Zombies as they approach, and hack off any Zombie hands/feet/heads that stick into the gaps in your ill-constructed defensive position.
  • They aren’t really as strong as they seem. Their illusion of great strength comes from the fact that they don’t give a rat’s ass about broken limbs, hernias, strains, or sore muscles. They are as strong as a human on PCP or in a hysterical state of mind. That means that although they will batter at a wall or door all night, if it is well constructed they won’t be able to break through.

Comparisons can be drawn between Zombie attacks and human-wave military tactics when it comes to planning your defense. If you have a strong defensive position and plenty of ammo, you are pretty safe. Just like the Chinese Army in the Korean War, Zombies will exploit any penetration of the perimeter, and will attempt to wear your defense down by attrition. They won’t think twice about using half their numbers to create a hole in your line, and they have the added strength of being able to convert any defender they manage to capture.

The best defense from Zombies is distance, and plenty of it.

Certain enemies in the Half-Life series of video games are named zombies, although they are not of the traditional type described in the above writeups. Technically speaking, they aren't even dead. I suggest you check out headcrabs if you'd like to know more about Half-Life's zombies.

Headcrabs, the tiny alien freaks from Xen, have the instinctive ability to latch onto the nervous systems of sentient species. By latching on this way, a headrab will gain total control of the host's body and eventually mutate into a part-alien zombie.

The zombie will share the form of whatever it was before being assimilated, but it will quickly develop common characteristic mutations. The chest of the host splits open straight through the rib cage and the headcrab begins to merge into the host's skin, which takes on a green tinge. The host's fingers extend into sharp and powerful Nightmare on Elm Street-esque claws, which it uses to bash and rend prey. The zombie then uses these claws to pick chunks of flesh off of the kill, and stuff them into its chest-gash, which serves as a grotesque parody of a mouth.

The zombie is a meat suit, shambling around without much speed, with the headcrab in full control. Headcrabs aren't too bright, luckily, so the zombie isn't much smarter.

The vertical maw is the source of the zombie's official name: The mawman. The general public had the tendency to call them zombies, however, because of their slow movement and severely limited intelligence, along with their somewhat resurrective origin. The name stuck, and now you're unlikely to hear the word 'mawman', even amoung die-hard fans.

Generally, zombies will stand around until they see prey, at which point they lurch after it, kill it, eat it, and then stand around some more. In order to compensate for their lack of speed, zombies will sometimes forcefully kick and toss objects at their prey. If a zombie is confined, it will go into a 'destruct mode', smashing everything in sight until it is free. This is often a sound tactic, as they are fully capable of clawing through a weak brick wall if the need arises.

When a zombie is killed, the headcrab may leap off of the useless dead body, if it has not yet begun to merge. Thus, the most efficient means of disposing with a zombie is to shoot it in the head, killing both the headcrab and the body at once. This is a good plan of action since zombies are resilient foes, and will continue to claw their way towards a target even if their legs are blown off. Fire is also an effective weapon: zombies are quite flammable.

If it manages to survive for around two days of feeding, the zombie will grow into a much faster, bulkier and more alien zombie, called a gonome. These enemies, featured in the expansion pack/sequel Half-Life: Opposing Force, can pull out their acidic stomach contents and toss them at you if you avoid their claws and jaws.

The zombie has been updated for the sequel of the Half-Lifes, Half-Life 2. It has has not yet been released, so updates will be added when it is.

I've got a theory about why certain monsters in horror cinema and literature become popular and influential. It has less to do with what monsters really scare us and more to do with what concepts really scare us.

Nowadays, monsters like vampires and werewolves just don't scare us that much anymore. It doesn't mean they're not still valuable for the skilled horrorist, because they embody certain fears that remain fairly universal. But let's face it -- Fear of Sex and Fear of Man's Dual Nature just don't have the cachet they used to. We live in a society that is slowly turning sexuality and thuggery into international virtues -- why should we fear what we want to become?

The zombie, however, is different. It's spent the last few years going through a renaissance of popularity, with high-profile new movies (like "28 Days Later," the remake of "Dawn of the Dead," "Land of the Dead," and "Shaun of the Dead"), computer games (including the popular "Resident Evil" series), science fiction TV (the Borg from "Star Trek") (suggested by Apollyon), and even pen-and-paper roleplaying games (Eden Studios' "All Flesh Must Be Eaten").

What sets the zombie apart from older monsters? For one thing, it's newer. The first important zombie movie didn't arrive on the scene until George Romero's 1968 classic "Night of the Living Dead". (There were a number of zombie movies in earlier decades, including "White Zombie" in 1932 and "I Walked with a Zombie" in 1943, but the voodoo zombie is a much weaker and less frightening animal than the modern flesh-eating ghoul) For moviegoers, "Dracula" has been around since 1931 and "The Wolf Man" since 1941 -- there's a certain feeling that everything that can be said about vampires and werewolves has already been said (that's not true, but it's why audiences haven't been reacting well to recent werewolf and vampire movies).

But the big reason for the zombie movie's success is that it addresses contemporary fears in a way that other horror films have not.

1. Fear of Death - Well, duh, I hear you say. But the death depicted in zombie movies is a lot different than death in a vampire movie. For one thing, vampires aren't really dead. Sure, their hearts don't beat, they've got cold, clammy skin, but their brains work fine, they've got superhuman powers, they're immortal, and they're pretty. If that's death, sign me up, 'cause it's a better deal than I got now.

The zombie, however, looks like what death really looks like. The skin rots, the eyes stare, bugs crawl in, parts fall off. We'll all look like that someday, right? Sure, but most of us never think of that. When most of us see death, it's in a funeral home, the body has been preserved, or the casket lid is safely closed. We think of death in the abstract, if we have to think of it at all. But the zombie shambles up to the house, hammers on the door, and demands that we stop thinking of death abstractly. "You think my rotting intestines are gross, bud? You think the maggots in my eye are horrifying? Guess what, dude? Someday, that'll be your intestines and your eye." And that's going to be a lot scarier to most people than the beautiful people hanging out in Dracula's castle.

2. Fear of Disease - This is pretty closely related to the Fear of Death, because disease can bring death, especially when the disease is new, unknown, or untreatable. The common cold doesn't scare most people, but AIDS, Ebola, and cancer scare the crap out of folks. While "Night of the Living Dead" operated under the assumption that it was only the dead who rose from their graves, other movies, including "Dawn of the Dead" and "28 Days Later" have focused on the idea that you could get infected by the zombie germ. Even the slightest scratch from a zombie could introduce the contagion into your body, transforming you from a healthy, living human into a mindless, flesh-eating corpse. Do you have a choice in the matter? No, the virus, introduced into the host body, will doom the organism. Scared yet? You should be. Maybe a zombie used that toilet before you...

This is a fear that has been used in many other modern horror stories, too. "The Howling" and "Salem's Lot" focus on werewolves and vampires, but they're also about what happens when you've got an epidemic that turns lots of people into monsters.

3. Fear of Madness - So, aside from the walking-around-while-dead thing, what characterizes the movie zombie's behavior? Cannibalism. Not a common pastime for the sane, is it? And whose flesh do they eat? Anyone's. Stranger, friend, family -- it doesn't matter. When someone comes at you with a knife, they usually get locked away, either in jail or in a mental institution. And even contemplating having your loved ones come after you and try to kill you is deeply frightening to most people.

And what's even worse? When your family stops recognizing you. They've gone so damn crazy that they don't even show any recognition when they try to kill and eat you. They won't stop attacking you, they won't recognize you, you can't talk sense into them, so what's your only recourse? You've got to kill them. And if they're crazy for trying to kill you, aren't you crazy for trying to kill them?

And you know what's even worse? If you get bitten, and you lose your mind, too, and start attacking and eating your friends and family. Insanity is scariest when you have to worry about it setting up shop in your own head.

The zombie's fascination with "BRRAAAINSS" (which didn't really get started until "The Return of the Living Dead" in 1985) is part of this. A person who becomes a zombie loses his or her mind in the process, so their quest for living brains serves a twofold purpose: first, it indicates that even the zombie recognizes its madness and wants, in a twisted way, to get a healthy brain again; second, it drives the zombie-madness meme home to the audience -- even if you don't get zombified, the health of your brain is still in danger, and you can lose your mind just from simple contact with the walking dead...

4. Fear of Mutilation - I considered calling this "Fear of Cannibalism", but it's a much broader fear. Eating another person is a cultural taboo almost worldwide, so that helps make it scary, but running just under the surface of our fears of cannibals is a fear of getting hurt. When we watch a movie in which someone gets hurt, it scares us because we identify with the character we see on the screen. It's scary for us to see someone who's had a chunk bitten out of his leg, because we're afraid of how bad it'll hurt if someone bites a chunk out of our leg. And zombie movies are all about letting us watch people get mutilated and then walk around displaying their mutilations as they inflict more mutilations on other people.

5. Fear of Betrayal - Every zombie movie I've ever seen includes a scene where someone is attacked by a close friend or family member who has been turned into a zombie. It's an almost certain bet -- if two characters are introduced who are best friends, lovers, newlyweds, or directly related to each other, by the end of the movie, one of those characters will be shambling after the other one and trying to eat his or her brains. This isn't just good drama -- this directly jabs a particularly potent personal terror of many people: the fear of being deserted or betrayed by someone you love and trust. And since this fear has its most primal roots buried in our childhoods (What child has never gotten lost in a grocery store or been dropped off for their first day of kindergarten and worried that they'd never see their parents again?), the most common relationships in zombie movies seem to be those of parents and children, with brothers and sisters running a close second. If the bonds of love are so easily broken, is there anything else in the world that's safe?

6. Fear of Isolation/Being Besieged - This is not really the kind of thing you'd expect, but it's a major feature in almost every important zombie movie. "Night of the Living Dead" is set in a farmhouse under siege from zombies. "Dawn of the Dead" is set in a shopping mall under siege from zombies. "Day of the Dead" is set in a military base under siege from zombies. "Army of Darkness" is set in a medieval castle under siege from zombies. "28 Days Later" includes zombie sieges of residences, high-rise apartments, and isolated army bases. Even "Shaun of the Dead" includes scenes where isolated bands of humans are besieged by hordes of zombies.

It's obvious why it's scary -- the zombies keep coming, the doors and windows are crudely and inexpertly barred, and eventually, they'll get through and kill us all. But this seems to be a fairly recent addition to the world of horror. Sieges occurred in horror movies in the past -- Dracula ran a minor assault to get into the Seward household, and the space carrot besieged the Antarctic base in "The Thing", but the sieges in zombie movies generally seem more hopeless and frightening. What changed to make sieges like this scary from 1968 on when they weren't scary before '68? I don't know for sure, but I'm going to cheat and say "Cultural Changes."

As modern life has become more complicated, we've had to come to terms with the fact that our dominant place in the universe is far from assured. The West is not the Dominant Cultural Monolith it used to be, mankind's abuse of the environment makes our own survival less certain, and even astronomy shows us that our entire solar system is about as far from the center of the universe as you can get.

Our lives are also growing more impersonal. Banks and the government identify us by our identification numbers, and our employers push us to become faceless drones in cookie-cutter cubicles. We're becoming more zombie-like every day, our personalities and individuality buried by corporations and governments that would seem to prefer mindless zombie-consumers as their customers.

The TV and newspapers are full of stories of families dissolving, random people being slain for no purpose, and traditional and national values under siege from all corners. Cultural change and upheaval are the norm, rather than the exceptions. We are all under assault. And zombie movies show us the unwashed cannibal horrors, hammering on our doors, trying to get inside, kill us, eat us, drop us down to their inferior level.

Is the zombie movie effective because it plays on our own individual fears? Yes, but it also has as much to do with society's own nightmares of irrelevance, extinction, and annihilation. In many ways, it is the most pessimistic of all the horror sub-genres, because it rarely sees any real hope for the future. The zombies -- and the decay of civilization -- cannot be stopped. Their drive to exterminate the human race is relentless and pitiless. The best we can do is slow them down for a while, but eventually, inevitably, we will fall, and we will join them as entropy's faceless cogs.

Some research from:
Night of the Living Dead by sid
GURPS Horror,Third Edition, Kenneth Hite, Steve Jackson Games, 2002
Nightmares of Mine, Kenneth Hite, Iron Crown Enterprises, 1999
Danse Macabre, Stephen King, Berkeley Books, 1981.
The Book of the Dead, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector, Bantam Books, 1989

Inspiration from:
High school can kill you
October 23, 2004
October 24, 2004
October 25, 2004

Copious advice and assistance from sid

Chances are, there's a zombie in your living room, in your den, your office or in your basement.

A zombie is the term applied to a computer remotely taken over by someone who is not its physical owner. The compromised computer is nearly always a home or office computer running one of the Windows operating systems. A zombie's intended use is usually to send spam, make other computers become zombies and to participate in distributed denial-of-service attacks. In nearly every instance, the original owner is blissfully unaware of what's going on.

Sound familiar? The term isn't coming out of thin air, although the cultural references necessitates a better than average knowledge of US pop culture. Zombie doesn't trigger quite the same thoughts with a Pole as it does with a bearded systems administrator from Texas. In any case, the term carries the same meaning to computer security people all over the world: a remotely controlled computer used for illicit purposes.

How it's done
In order to become a zombie, a computer must run some kind of program so it can be remotely controlled by someone. This type of program has a lot of names depending of who talks about it and what agenda they have; trojan horses, viruses and worms. The garden variety zombie comes into being when malicious software executes on the computer, usually when the original owner visit websites with malicious content, opens email attachments or simply connects to the internet.

The malicious software exploits loopholes or security flaws in the operating system in order to run.

Why it is possible
In simplified terms:
When Microsoft built their operating systems out of pop rivets, chewing gum, paper clips and leftover sidings, they designed some parts well, some parts not so well and some other special parts incredibly bad. To fix the bad and not-so-well things whenever they're notified or find them themselves, Microsoft issue corrections for their Windows operating systems. This is known as patches (another cultural reference right there). When Microsoft publish a patch, they always tell you what problem it's supposed to fix and how important it is that you (yes, you!) fix it. Cue the bad guys. They now know about a flaw/weakness/loophole in Windows. Now it's just a question of time when a program to exploit them appears on the internet.

Yes, I know. Security flaws exist in other operating systems than Windows. I'll bother thinking about it when Windows drops below 96% market share.

What it does
When the malicious software runs, it installs a copy of itself and executes it. It then phones home to the internet hideout where the zombie master resides to notify the internet supervillain of itself. The computer in your living room is now a zombie and part of a botnet, raring to get up and go. After a few minutes, it normally starts relaying spam to tens of thousands of recipients. It is estimated that at about half on the net's spam volume comes from zombies. Spam, in turn, accounts for 50-70% of the entire world's email volume.1

A couple of days later it's been found out by the guys who finds out about these things and whoever controls the zombie will then usually discard it.

If the bad guy has no immediate use for the zombie, he can sell it to someone else as part of a botnet. Botnets are regularly bought and sold for thousands of dollars on the internet. If you want 5,000 zombies, be prepared to pay up to a dollar a piece (excl. VAT or sales tax).

Why it's done
The internet is a good idea, isn't it? Get free information, send mail to your grandmother on the other side of the world, read your local newspaper wherever you are or make shit up for foreign websites. It's almost too good to be true. Then somehow money becomes involved and the equation defining global cooperation and happiness become perverted. People found a way to make money by selling cow dung. They found a way of making money by telling other people how to make money by telling other people about how to make money.

So it's about money of course. When there's people involved in anything, it either turns out to be about sex or the almighty dollar. In the case of the internet, you could argue it's about both. Simultaneously.

Say you bought the 5,000 strong army of zombies (or botnet) mentioned above. Here's what you can do with it in order to earn some cash:

  • Offer to send a million spam emails for some dubious drug. Demand 5% of their sales profit. And yes, there are plenty of people who buys stuff advertised to them in spam. If I promised you a 36-hour tent in your pants, you'd buy the box of pills too if you were desperate enough. When it comes to sex and money, someone is always desperate enough. Don't think about what's actually in the pills. Money is money. Suckers are suckers and P.T. Barnum was right.
  • Send an email to a couple of small companies and state that unless they pay you $10,000, you'll drown them in useless traffic and render their mail and web stuff unusable. Pick a company you know has underpaid and/or clueless system administrators. The supply of customers in your newfound market niche should be limitless.
  • Post a message on one of the web forums where the miscreants hang out and offer your army of zombies up for sale. In a free market economy, there's nothing quite like cashing in on other people's stupidity, greed or ignorance. The mainstream corporations are doing it every second every day, so why shouldn't you?

For the bad guys, a zombie has several advantages:

  • It's very hard to trace the flow of internet sewer coming from the zombie
  • A zombie is disposable. When the original owner shuts the computer down or cleans it up, the operational impact is negligible.
  • Someone else pays for the bandwith.
  • Complaints about abusive internet behaviour goes to the original owner, not the bad guy
  • The means of production are paid for by everyone else

Remedies
The best remedy is keeping your Windows computer up to date by visiting Windows Update (http//www.windowsupdate.com or http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com) use some kind of firewall on your computer or network and practice safe computing. At the very least, this will prevent your computer from becoming infected.

Some Internet Service Providers have begun blocking mail traffic wholesale from customers in order to stem the tide of spam. If you want to send mail, you'll have to use the ISP's own mail relay. In addition, a lot of legitimate mail servers are denying mail traffic from the parts of the internet that are known to be inhabited by only home computers.

This does nothing with regard to denial-of-service attacks though. That's a much more complicated dragon to slay when it rears its head.

You can also stop using Windows or change the parts of it which are the most common vessels for compromise; the mail client and the browser, but for a lot of people this is neither possible nor practical.


For a handy-dandy starting point for securing yourself on the internet, read SecurityFocus' Cybersecurity and You: Five Tips Every Consumer Should Know on <http://www.securityfocus.com/news/4983>.

1Email accounts for roughly 5% of the total internet traffic according to some sources. It's hard to measure though, so take all percentages in this writeup with a grain of salt.

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