One thing about Botnets that scares me is the amount of idle computing power that is available to the owner of the Botnet. Suddenly, things that were once computationally infeasible with one machine become plausible or even possible with thousands of machines.

It seems like most Botnets churn out SPAM right now to the tune of trillions per day. SPAM may be profitable–the fraud generated by the SPAM anyway–but in light of recent attacks, I wonder if there are more enterprising methods.

If Botnet owners didn’t happen to have 200 PS3s laying around for a research project on SSL, they could develop a program to break a large task down into work units, and have each bot on the net work on one of those units in the background (just like how SETI works). [Thanks BU!]

Even better, maybe it could be an interesting way to re-use those empty cycles. Business idea for someone. Develop a legitimate agent that can do that, and pay owners of computers some cash value for their cycles. Better yet, have that agent look for malware and alert and destroy it. Maybe the best yet is have it be part of an anti-virus program. Enrique Salem (SYMC), David DeWalt (MFE), or Mingjiang Chang (TYO:4704), there’s a freebie for ya.

I’d be very interested to see what kind of illegal profits could be squeezed out of botnets outside of SPAM. SPAM is one thing that everyone hates, but maybe those guys could be more creative and find other ways to bring in cash?

This post originally appeared on BrandenWilliams.com.