Is My Company at Risk From Botnets?
A botnet is a collection of internet-connected devices, which may include personal computers, servers, mobile devices, and internet of things devices that have been infected with malware and are under the control of a malicious actor.
This cybercrime phenomenon has kept organizations and individual users on their toes for more than a decade, fueling massive spam campaigns, data theft, click frauds, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) raids, stealth cryptocurrency mining, and even extortion stratagems.
Botnets can be used to perform a variety of automated tasks, such as sending spam emails, clicking on ads to generate revenue for the botnet operator, or launching DDoS attacks against websites or servers. The devices in a botnet are often referred to as “bots” or “zombies.”
How Are Botnets Used?
Botnets are most commonly used to send spam emails or launch DDoS attacks. However, they can also be used for other purposes, such as stealing sensitive information like login credentials or credit card numbers. Another example of how botnets can be used is via click fraud, or a type of fraud that artificially inflates traffic statistics for online advertisements.
How Do Botnets Work?
Botnets are created when malware is installed on a device without the owner’s knowledge or consent. The malware allows the device to be controlled remotely by the botnet operator—also known as a “cybercriminal” or “hacker”—without the owner’s knowledge.
Once a device has been infected with malware and added to a botnet, the cybercriminal can issue commands to the entire botnet or to specific groups of bots, called “botnets of bots.” For example, a botnet operator could issue a command to all of the bots in their botnet to send spam emails from thousands of different email accounts. Or, they could target a specific group of bots and use them to launch a DDoS attack against a website or server.
The size of botnets can vary widely, from just a few hundred bots to tens of thousands—or even millions—of infected devices. The largest known botnet was called Mirai and consisted of more than 150,000 infected devices. Mirai was used to launch several high-profile DDoS attacks in 2016, including an attack against KrebsOnSecurity that knocked the website offline for more than 24 hours.
How Do You Protect Yourself From Bots?
Reduce the risks to you and your systems against botnets, and follow the 8 Steps below to elevate your cyber resilience and reduce your risks:
- Update your software and apps – Unpatched software vulnerabilities are common entry points for botnet-related malware.
- Install Anti-Malware – Traditional anti-virus software is not effective against today’s advanced malware. Anti-malware is designed to detect and remove threats not seen before (signature-less or zero-day.)
- Be Cautious of Email Attachments – Emails that want you to download files (PDFs, XLS, DOC) or click links should be avoided, even if they appear to come from someone you know.
- Firewall Automation – Install a Firewall that will alert you to anomalous web activity. Netswitch has a RansomBloc® that automatically updates your Firewall protections.
- Use Legitimate & Licensed Software – Cracked applications often have malicious viruses or malware encoded in them to steal your personal data.
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – MFA increases security by requiring two forms of authentication. (Read more about MFA)
- Use the principle of least privilege – Not everyone in your business should have Administrative access. Restrict each of your employees’ access based on their role to prevent botnet-related harmful code from spreading.
- Educate Employees on Cybersecurity Awareness – Minimize the risk of a network intrusion, and shore up your first line of defense against external threats by training your employees on cybersecurity awareness.
Botnets are created when malware is installed on internet-connected devices without your knowledge or consent. Once your device has been infected with malware and added to a botnet, it is controlled remotely by the botnet operator or “hacker” without your knowledge.
Botnets are most commonly used to send spam emails or launch DDoS attacks. However, they can also be used for other purposes, such as stealing sensitive information like login credentials or credit card numbers.
Netswitch’s security experts recommend taking steps to protect your devices from malware infections so that they cannot be used in botnets.
Remember to install security software, keep devices up-to-date; use strong passwords, and be cautious about emails.
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