Technology Explained Web Culture

Is Your PC A Zombie? And What’s a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Joel Lee 04-12-2012

zombie computerHave you ever wondered where all of the Internet spam comes from? You probably receive hundreds of spam-filtered junk emails every day. Does that mean there are hundreds and thousands of people out there, sitting around sending them out manually? Unfortunately, no. The process is mostly performed by zombie computers.


Whoa! Zombie computers? That sounds dangerous, scary, and a bit apocalyptic, doesn’t it? In a sense, that could be a true description. There are millions of zombified computers all around the world that perform terrible acts, like sending out spam and malware. It’s not the end of the world yet, but it’s definitely a hassle. And worst of all, your computer might be one of those zombies.

What Is A Zombie Computer?

zombie computer

We’re not talking about computers that have risen from the dead – that would be a rather fascinating investigation of its own. Instead, when we talk about zombie computers, we’re describing a computer that has been infiltrated and hijacked by a third party. Most of time, this zombification occurs through malware, Trojans, and viruses.

What happens when your computer turns to the dark side? It can be controlled by a third party – whether that third party is a single person, a group of people, or even a corporation–to do things without your knowledge. Like, for example, sending out spam emails or performing denial of service attacks.

When a person has an army of zombie computers at their command, these armies are called “botnets”.  Botnets are used to cause mischief across the Internet because they are so difficult to trace back to the original controller. Most PC owners don’t even realize that their computers have been doing the bidding of another.


Is Your Computer A Zombie?

a zombie computer

In most cases, zombie infections are not intentional–meaning that hackers don’t intentionally pick a specific computer to zombify. If anything, computers are zombified through contagious contact with malware links and virus-laden emails. So if your computer is a zombie, don’t immediately assume that someone is out to get you.

The thing about malware and virus infections is that they don’t want to be detected, which means it can be hard to determine if your computer is a zombie. Fortunately, there are a few ways that can point you in the right direction. Look for these symptoms on your computer:

  • Zombie processes require use of the computer’s processor and network. If you’ve experienced a slowdown in your computer’s operating speed or your network speed, then you may have an infection.
  • Check your email accounts–particularly their outbound messages. Botnets require bots to operate, which means that botnets are always “recruiting” new computers. This is done through the spread of malware. If you’re sending out emails that you’ve never written, then you may be infected.
  • Zombie IP addresses are often put onto blacklists. If you suspect an infection, you can check to see if your IP address has been added to any blacklists. Copy this URL into your browser––and replace the “” with your own IP address (use

If you have a zombie infection, the best course of action is to run a scan of your system using anti-malware and anti-virus programs. My own recommendations include Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Stop & Delete Spyware With Malwarebytes for Windows It may not be as feature-laden as Spybot Search and Destroy, which has a ridiculous number of tools, but it is a very lightweight alternative with good spyware coverage. Read More and Lavasoft Ad-Aware Pro Lavasoft Ad-Aware Pro: A Security Suite That’s Fast & Effective [Rewards] Read More .


Preventing Zombie Infections

zombie computer

The best defense against zombie infections is a strong offense – meaning a proactive approach towards keeping yourself safe and out of malware’s way. Here are some ways to keep yourself as safe as possible:

Practice safe Internet habits and always be wary of suspicious links. When you have malware, clear it out as soon as possible. But all the same, don’t be too scared or paranoid of zombie infections. Yes, infections are annoying, but they won’t demolish your system. Just stay alert and you’ll be fine.

Image Credits: Zombie Computer Via Shutterstock, Botnet Via, Malware Computer Via Shutterstock, Security Via Shutterstock


Related topics: Anti-Malware, Trojan Horse.

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  1. Sriram
    January 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Luckily, My PC was not a zombie now!

  2. Giggity Goebbels
    December 9, 2012 at 1:24 am

    To get rid of that,all we need is to win a match of plants vs zombies

  3. Din One
    December 8, 2012 at 11:15 am

    This is most worry thing... tHanks for info...

  4. Giggity Goebbels
    December 8, 2012 at 7:17 am

    My isp using a proxy,how do i check?

  5. Austen Gause
    December 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    thats kind of freaky but its not surprising.

  6. Shmuel Mendelsohn
    December 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I'm afraid of my computer!!!!

  7. Anonymous
    December 6, 2012 at 6:01 am

    What if I have a dynamic ip?

    • Joel Lee
      December 6, 2012 at 6:13 am

      You can still be infected with a dynamic IP. The problem is that if your IP is blacklisted and you change IPs, you won't know that you've been blacklisted if you check the blacklists. This just makes it harder to diagnose if you really are zombied.

      In that case, I would just run one or two big-name high-quality malware/spyware/antivirus scanners just to make sure you're clean.

  8. Mac Witty
    December 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Here, I think the one in front of the computer is more of a zombie ;)

    • Joel Lee
      December 6, 2012 at 6:11 am

      Haha. That's definitely true in my case. :D

  9. dragonmouth
    December 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    You forgot the most important advice of all - Do not use an O/S in which administrative tasks can be performed by a user, such as Windows. Use one in which administrator and user capabilities are clearly defined and clearly separated, such as BSD.

  10. Vishal Srivastava
    December 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for this article!!
    Checked out that mine isn't a zombie and hope that it stays that way!!

  11. Anonymous
    December 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I hope mine isn't one :P

  12. ha14
    December 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

    if the pc refuse to sleep then this is sign of zombification:)

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      December 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      What does it do exactly.

  13. Douglas Mutay
    December 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

    This is far beyond one of the most instructive and best article ever!
    Thank you very much. I am going to share this with all my officemates and friends!
    Thumbs up for the great job!!!

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Douglas. :D

  14. vineed gangadharan
    December 5, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Sorry, we are currently missing dns information for

    It is blacklisted in 14 lists.
    This was shown on the site when i entered my ip as you have am i infected???

    • Alexander
      December 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Yes :/ . Since it is blacklisted on 14 lists, it sounds like it have been "zombified" for a while. Just follow the article and i think you will be fine !

  15. Igor Rizvi?
    December 5, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Wow my ip i s blacklisted 2 times :S ..thanks for sharing this..

  16. Lee
    December 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Need a print friendly version of this. I would like to print it up and put it on the wall in my cube but not with all the noise on the right-side.

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      We don't have a print-friendly option on this site, but you can always use a service like Evernote Clearly. Our editor loves it. :)

  17. Gerald Huber
    December 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    My computer might be a zombie. Its slow, its front left case foot fell off and it makes a noise that sounds like "CPUUUuuuuusssssss".

    thanks for the article

    • Joel Lee
      December 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      The best kind of computer zombie. ;)

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      December 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      You should check Ctrl + Alt + Delete in Processes to detect any unusual, not official (from a company you know) memory and network eating processes, end them and see what happens, then if nothing wrong happens, reboot and write their process names and try to find them using your computer search. If you're not sure about a process name try first searching it in Google for more information.