People voluntarily joining together for a common cause can wield considerable power.
Behind those reports, though, is the growing issue of opt-in botnets powered by users who intentionally install software to take part in cyber-attacks. The concept is not new; but such botnets are increasingly being used as a vehicle of protest by hacktivists looking to voice their displeasure.
“Opt-in botnets are a different breed of threat,” said Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at Damballa, who recently wrote a paper on the issue (PDF). “While criminal botnets require the invisible and unauthorized installation of a malware agent – which is generally illegal in most Western countries – ‘choosing’ to install the software and consenting to be part of a distributed platform is fine.”