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Storm worm rivals world's best supercomputers

Online criminals may have access to one of the largest supercomputing networks in the world--their own botnet.

What good are several million Storm worm infected PCs? According to one researcher, the current computing power of Storm worm's botnet is greater than IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer. "If you calculate pure theoretical throughput," Matt Sergeant, chief antispam technologist with security vendor MessageLabs, "then I'm sure the botnet has more capacity than IBM's Blue Gene. If you sat them down to play chess, the botnet would win."

The Australian publication IT News also quotes Sergeant as saying, "In terms of power, the botnet utterly blows the supercomputers away." He goes on to say that just 2 million of the suspected 50 million Storm worm-infected machines are equivalent to the computing power of the top 500 supercomputers.

In the last few months, antivirus vendors have reported an increase in Storm worm infections. Infected computers are often used to relay spam. They can also be used to attack Web sites in what's called a denial-of-service attack.

More alarming is the amount of control the Storm worm bot-herders apparently have over their creation. "We've seen spikes where the owner is experimenting with something and those spikes are usually five to 10 times what we normally see," Sergeant told IT News. "That means they can turn on the taps whenever they want to."

MessageLabs has more on the Storm worm in its monthly report on spam.