A botnet is one of the cyber threats you should beware of. Your device may be part of this malicious network, and you need to resolve it quickly.
The 21st century is undoubtedly the century of technological advances. Year after year, technology evolves at a dizzying pace that would surprise past generations. This is especially noticeable in the field of communications and information. Every day is more instantaneous, every day we are more interconnected, and no less than the Internet has a total of 4 billion users worldwide. And while this brings its benefits, it also has its consequences, such as the use of botnet.
Those who wish to commit malicious actions are unfortunately everywhere, and the Internet is not out of it. You may already know that, just as the Internet is a source of information and communication, it is also a source of threats and risks. If you don’t have the right defenses, a single click on the wrong site at the wrong time can bring terrible results, such as theft or loss of information or destruction of your devices.
What is a botnet?
Before explaining what a botnet is, we must first define what a bot is, so common all over the web. And this is essential because, although you may already know them, many know the term but don’t know its meaning.
A web robot, or simply a bot, is a software app that performs automated tasks (scripts) across the Internet. The most common practice is for them to carry out considerably easy and repetitive tasks since they perform faster-than-human speed. Bots themselves are not malicious, as evidenced by web crawlers, bots that index the web, but, as with any tool, some use them for illegal or dishonest purposes.
So, a botnet is a network of devices connected to the Internet, such as computers, smartphones, or IoT devices, that have been compromised and whose control is in the hands of a third party. And each of these devices runs one or more bots. The botnet controller has the ability to direct the actions of the compromised computers via standard network protocols, such as IRC or HTTP. The attacker commonly controls the bots via command and control (C&C) software.
How a botnet works
To have a complete understanding of botnets, you must understand how they work. The subject is not exactly simple, but it is essential to understand the threat posed by a botnet.
In summary, there are two ways to set up botnets. These are:
- Client-server model. This model is the oldest way of setting up botnets. The compromised computers, i.e., the bots, receive instructions from a single location on the Internet, such as a specific website or server. When it comes to this model, it is much easier to take down the botnet, as it is enough to find the website and take it down.
- Peer-to-peer model. This is much more complicated than the previous model, to the point that it does not have the same weakness. Each infected device is directly connected to others in the network, which is in communication with other ones, thus forming an intricate botnet. In this way, it is not enough to take down a single device, as the rest of the network will continue to function.
Hackers or botnet controllers, called “bot herders”, can carry out a series of terrible actions with the network of zombie computers they manage.
Mainly, botnets are used for:
- A sufficiently large botnet can quickly produce and send hundreds, thousands, or even millions of spam messages. Originally, this was its main function.
- By compromising a computer, the bot herder gains access to all your personal information, including your contacts. Potentially, it could impersonate you by using your own computer to carry out online scams.
- Data theft. Once your device is part of the botnet, the hacker can easily install spyware and observe your activity, creating a massive spyware network. This facilitates information theft, such as bank details, passwords, and any other sensitive information.
- Click fraud. Third parties may use your computer remotely to visit websites without your knowledge, generating fake traffic.
- Ad fraud. The bot herder can use all the devices in the botnet to falsely increase its popularity or increase the number of clicks on an advertisement, getting more money from advertisers.
- Bitcoin mining. A botnet can be an interconnected network of devices mining bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency to generate profits for the network operator.
- DDoS attack. It is common for hackers to use botnets to carry out massive DDoS attacks on websites, relying on hundreds, thousands, or even millions of devices to do so.
- Virus spreading. A sufficiently sophisticated botnet can compromise and add more devices to the network automatically.
If you notice that your device, whether it is a computer, a phone, or a tablet, suddenly works slower; if someone you know lets you know that they received a message from you that you do not remember sending; also, if your antivirus has suddenly stopped working or you cannot download one, then it is most likely that your device is part of a botnet. And you must solve the issue as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, it is not that difficult to stop being part of a botnet, even if it seems so. All you have to do is uninstall the malicious software that controls it. However, this is certainly not simple, as they usually hide under the guise of bona fide software. But if you have a powerful antivirus, a thorough scan should be enough; the other option, which cannot fail, is to format the device completely.
The best thing you can do is prevent being part of a botnet. Always have a good antivirus installed; be careful on the web, don’t access untrusted websites, and don’t download dubious origin content. Also, always have your device’s operating system updated.
Finally, always seek guidance from an IT security expert. You’ll see this will bring you many benefits.