Botnets are a string of private computers linked together by one server. While some types are legal and serve to run websites, others are malicious. These illegal botnets connect computers through infection by malware, namely Trojan malware. Other less common infections occur through drive-by downloads and spiders. While the owner often doesn’t know that they are infected, the cybercriminals controlling the botnet have full access to their computer and information. Additionally, these criminals can make your computer a zombie to perform tasks for them. Any device that can connect to the internet including PCs, Macs, smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, security cameras, and other smart appliances can be incorporated into a botnet.
How Botnets Work
After downloading infectious software, the botnet contacts its creator, and your computer is now is under his/her control. The creator’s ultimate goal is to incorporate millions of computers into their botnet web or zombie network. This occurs because the more computers there are in a web, the stronger the cyber attacks. Once in control of your computer, these cybercriminals can perform malicious tasks including:
- Sending spam
- Influencing elections
- Using their web to create DDoS attacks where they overload the website with all of their botnets until there is a denial in service
- Creating fake internet traffic for financial gain
- Creating ads for financial gain
- Mining cryptocurrencies
In other cases, cybercriminals create zombie networks to sell to other criminals. This allows more people to have access to your data. Furthermore, these infections are very skilled at hiding themselves. They use minimal power, so they do not disrupt normal computer function. Some botnets even adapt to avoid security software detection.
Different types of Botnets
This type of botnet uses a single master server to transmit information to each member of the web. They do this through command and control servers to effectively relay information.
However, while client-server models are great for conveying information to the zombie network, they are also easily detected and stopped by law enforcement because they use command and control servers. In order to destroy the botnet, one must simply destroy the server.
This structure is similar to the client-server model. However, instead of having one main server to distribute information, each computer in the web acts as both a receptor and a server. Similar to how people communicate peer-to-peer, these computers talk to each other to relay information. This makes it harder for law enforcement to detect because there are many servers and destroying one will not destroy the botnet.
How to protect yourself
Protecting your personal information is pretty straight-forward. Some of the common recommendations to protect yourself from infection and to rid your devices from current botnets are:
- Download and run malware software often
- Update your computer system, applications, and security software often
- Do not click on or download suspicious links and attachments. This includes all links sent from unknown email addresses, websites, and pop-ups.
- Utilize a firewall to ensure security while you browse the internet.
- Avoid suspicious websites
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Resources: https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-malware-what-is-a-botnet.html, https://usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/threats/botnet-attacks, https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/security/what-is-a-botnet/