Have you heard the word Botnet? Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is a network of infected devices that cybercriminals use for their malicious purposes. In the world, there are millions of infected devices, maybe even billions, and they are just a few clicks away from attacking their next target!
What is Botnet?
A Botnet is a network of infected devices (a.k.a. hijacked devices or zombie computers) that cybercriminals first infect and later use for various cyberattacks, including DDoS attacks, SPAM spreading, phishing attacks, and more. The term Botnet is a combination of two words. The first is “bot” short of “robot”, which means an automated machine, that can perform a specific task. The second word is “net”, and it comes from “network” because here we are talking about multiple devices that can be triggered at once.
One feature of the Botnet that makes it so dangerous is that the users of the infected devices usually have no idea that the devices have a malicious code on them. They might not see a spike in resources’ use, or they can think that the devices are experiencing a bug making them work more. Botnets are sneaky threats!
What are Botnets used for?
- DDoS attacks. An attacker can use its Botnet or Botnets and create a massive wave of traffic towards a particular target. The goal is to overwhelm the target (usually a server) with so many DNS queries that it won’t be able to answer any, including those coming from regular users, and cause downtime. The scenario could be many times worse if the cybercriminal uses DDoS amplification and create even heavier traffic.
- Mining cryptocurrency. Your device might be mining cryptocurrency for somebody else, and you might not even know it. It will use your computer’s or mobile phone’s resources, to mine. That way, the attacker has many zombie devices that can bring a lot of profit without investing in hardware or paying any electricity or internet bills.
- Phishing attacks. Phishing attacks are a tricky way to get someone’s username, password, or other valuable information. A botnet device could write messages on your behalf, asking for information from your contacts, that later the criminals could use to attack their accounts. A phishing attack could also lead your contacts to a fake site that looks a lot like a real one, and there they might input their personal data or bank data.
- Spam spreaders. A hijacked device can be a spreader of spam messages. If your device runs a hacker’s script, you might be spreading dangerous messages all around the Internet. Those messages could be directed to your contacts on your behalf or anonymously. Either way, your device could be the “recruiter” of new devices for the Botnet, helping phishing attacks happen or spreading information around the Internet.
How to protect ourselves from Botnet attacks?
- Use strong passwords and 2FA. Make your passwords as complicated and large as possible. Adding a second factor in your authentication will increase your security a lot.
- Keep your devices up to date. The latest software (OS included) will have the latest security patches that can protect you better.
- Don’t click any link or open any attachment that looks strange, even if it comes from a trustworthy contact of yours. It might start malicious software that will infect your devices.
- Use antivirus software for your devices. It can detect the infected file on time and save you from the infection.
- Look for abnormal activities on your device. A sudden spike in CPU or GPU use might indicate that the computer is working for somebody else.