RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There is a good chance your computer is a zombie and you don't even know it. Experts say your computer or a friend's is probably part of an illegal system called a Botnet! Thousands of computers controlled by cyber criminals. Cyber expert, DJ Rivera, with AVM Technology says your computer has probably already been targeted.
"Somebody is using their computer to commit a crime," said Rivera.
It's estimated that one in ten computers is infected. All it takes is a click of the mouse; a malicious link in a spam email, downloading a free game or simply clicking a celebrity picture.
"The only art behind it is getting people to click on it. If you can find a way to find enough people to click on it, you can own all those machines," he said.
Rivera says millions of people are impacted, millions of commands are sent out and there is no way to totally stop criminals from operating these botnets.
"This program will install itself and once it is installed, then the Bot-Master, the creator, will have control over all of those computers that downloaded it," explained Rivera.
There is no 100 percent protection but you can reduce your risk. Don't click on anything without knowing the source and even if you do, be cautious. Also, be suspicious of anything free and keep your computer software updated.
"That will give you good protection but there are some of these Botnets that send out a program that can disable your antivirus," Rivera said.
There is no one sure fire way to tell if you're part of a Botnet -- but some possible indicators include, your computer running slower or your email or social networking sites being hacked into. Rivera says there is reason to fear the Botnet.
"This one, kind of encompasses all of them. This one just makes all of the others bigger," he told us.
Big enough for cyber criminals to use those zombie computers to send hundreds of spam emails all at one time, overloading the target's server. Crooks can take down banks, major corporations -- even government agencies. The White House recently announced initiatives to fight Botnets -- calling them the biggest risk to internet security. As a result, the industry Botnet group was formed. Among the goals is to raise awareness, encourage prevention, and improve detection.
"You probably will never catch them. What they do is create a hierarchy. They have a botnet, that controls another botnet that controls another botnet," he said.
Another reminder to use the web with caution. Even more frightening, cyber experts say these botnets are not difficult to create and there is free software and tutorials.
Click here for a look at the White House Announcement.