Stanford University's Folding@Home project is a great example of desktop computers pooling their computing resources together, but what if a botnet generated by malware could harness the same—or greater—power for less noble deeds? According to a report by Asutralian site IT News, that may already be the case. The site quotes MessageLabs security researcher Matt Sergeant as saying the Storm worm botnet "utterly blows the supercomputers away" in terms of raw computing power.
According to Sergeant, there are about two million computers in the botnet sending spam e-mail "on any given day." Worse yet, he estimates that the botnet is only operating at 10% of its capacity, and he suspects it could count as many as 50 million compromised PCs. He adds, "If you calculate pure theoretical throughput, then I'm sure the botnet has more capacity than IBM's BlueGene."
The researcher goes on to say the botnet could be used to damage a bank or company through a denial of service attack or spam barrage. There's even the possibility that an enemy of a given country might rent such a botnet to shut down government agencies or financial centers. "It's a lot of computing power that could be focused to do a lot of damage," he says.