Amongst the security threats to our systems and accounts, Botnets are in some way leading the race as most cybercriminals are looking up to it to infect anything that is linked to the internet. The two huge affected systems are Facebook’s fake ad controversy and the Twitter bot fiasco during the 2016 presidential election. Also, research says that most fake news comes from these bots.
Bots apart from being heavily used to mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, misleading elections, are also being used to deploy malware in systems of various organizations.
How do Botnets work?
As the name suggests, it comes from the words, robots and network. Bot-net is a blend of both the words meaning a network of robots deployed for cybercrimes. The criminals who control the botnets are called as botmasters or bot headers.
How does the size of botnet matter?
To build a botnet, bot headers look around for a great number of infected online devices or “bots”. The number of bots determines the size of the botnet and the size of the botnet determines the impact it can cause. Hence this is how the size of botnet matters. The criminals mainly look towards financial gain, malware propagation, or just the general disruption of the internet. They command the infected devices or a bot army to hit and overload a website to a point that it stops functioning. This kind of attack is termed as a denial of service or DDoS.
What are various Botnet Infections?
Botnets are designed to infect millions of devices with the help of a trojan horse virus. These viruses can enter into your device by emails, popups, or un-secure downloads, following which the botnets and steadily infect your system as well as the information on the system. Most botnets these days are autonomous and carry out seek-and-infect missions by constantly checking for vulnerable devices connected to the internet.
The most intriguing thing about botnets is, it is difficult to detect. They mostly work on small amounts of computing power to keep away from the detection and even some advanced ones can hide from cybersecurity software. Botnets take time to grow, however, the user remains unaware of it. Many botnets lay dormant and attack for a DDoS attack or for spam dissemination on command from the botmaster.
Is your device Vulnerable?
Botnets can affect any device that is on the internet and falls on the web of a botnet. Not only your PCs or laptops or phones, but also your smart home devices can be attacked by Botnets and that happens more often than expected. Think of a Botnet attacking your security camera and the result of it. One such attack had happened to a company called Dyn in the year 2016 (a large DDoS attack). As the company is an internet infrastructure company, a lot of huge organizations like Twitter and Amazon were badly affected.
Types of Botnet Attacks?
- Ad Fraud
If you have faced a lot of pop-up ads, it may be mostly due to the botnets trying to imply a fraudulent scheme. The botnets combine themselves with the click on ads to get to a fraudulent website and on each click, they receive a percentage of the advertising fees.
- Selling and renting Botnets
After the use of the botnets to create malfunction to thousands or millions of devices, they can be sold or rented to other criminals looking for a potential spread of ransomware, cyber-attacks, or stealing personal information.
Botnet structures are two types and each of them is designed to give flawless control to the botmaster.
- Client-Server Model: This model follows the basic structure where all the clients are connected to the main server. Dedicated software is used to command and control the transmission to all the clients of the bot header. The downside to this structure is, the central point can be detected easily, and once found, the botnet is dead.
- Peer-to-peer: Rather than one centralized server, each of them is interconnected and act as client and server. Individual bots contain the list of others and that is how they connect and transmit information. Since they don’t have a centralized system, it is difficult to locate the server or disrupt the network in any way.
How can you prevent Botnets?
Looking into the kind of threats by Botnets, it is understood that keeping good surfing habits and antivirus protection and the understanding of how it works, will help you keep safe.
- Keep your operating system updated: This is the most essential thing you can do to prevent Botnets. Since developers are aware of the incoming threats, they use the knowledge to update the system. The same should be taken advantage of and keep the system updated and to the latest version.
- Avoid emails from unknown sources and keep away suspicious attachments: Mostly infections come through email attachments. Avoiding attachments coming from unknown sources are a good catch. You also need to scrutinize emails from your contacts, as bot headers make use of your contact list to spam or send infected emails.
- Avoid downloads from P2P and file-sharing networks: These are hubs for botnets, so you can either scan your downloads or can choose alternatives, if available.
- Avoid suspicious links: You can always avoid visiting suspicious and unsecured links. You will mostly find these links in message boards, YouTube comments, pop up ads, etc. You can check by hovering over the hypertext and check where the link actually takes you.
- Use strong antivirus software: This is by far the best way to keep away botnets. When you purchase an antivirus check for all aspects of protection and for all your devices and not just the computer since botnets can sweep into any kind of device.
With the progressing internet and the increasing Internet of Things, the scope for the increase of botnets and their potential is also increasing. However, they will be tracked down and handled. It is also believed that eventually laws will hold users responsible for the cause. Hence, it is always advisable to keep your devices safe from the start and protect your identity, data, and devices.