While you may think that Google, Amazon and Microsoft are the world's largest cloud providers it's really the Conficker worm that has helped criminal networks spawn a botnet of mass proportions.
How does Conficker meets the definitions of a cloud? According to the Spectre Group,a veteran technologist explained the connection last week at the Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Ca.:
"Conficker controls 6.4 million computer systems in 230 countries at 230 top level domains globally, more than 18 million CPUs and 28 terabits per second of bandwidth, said Rodney Joffe, senior vice president and senior technologist at the infrastructure services firm Neustar. The biggest cloud on the planet is controlled by a vast criminal enterprise that uses that botnet to send spam, hack computers, spread malware and steal personal information and money, Joffe said. In other words, the cloud is mobbed up."
The Spectre Group further explains how, Conficker meets the definitions. The botnet cloud is available for rent and and is just about anywhere in the world. It can be used for a variety of purposes, be a denial-of-service attack, spam distribution or data exfiltration. In fact, all that comment spam that plagues blogs could easily be spawned from the Conflicker cloud.
Joffe used the presentation at the conference to illustrate the dangers of Conficker and and how it poses a threat to legitimate cloud computing providers. He said at the conference that Conficker has not been as active as it once was, but is still a threat. The Manchester, UK Police Department was hit in February.
And it has a huge footprint, all over the world. The operators have a lot of experience, too, dating back to 1998.
The Spectre Group says in comparison the legitimate players in the market are far smaller:
"By the way, the biggest legitimate cloud provider is Google, based on Joffe's information, made up of 500,000 systems, 1 million CPUs and 1,500 gigabits per second (Gbps) of bandwdith. Amazon comes in second with 160,000 systems, 320,000 CPUs and 400 Gbps of bandwidth, while Rackspace offers 65,000 systems, 130,000 CPUs and 300 Gbps."
The Conficker cloud demonstrates the illusions that have to be considered when thinking about cloud computing. It's not just the danger of a a PC being infected by a virus. It's the danger of another computer entering the criminal enterprise.