A botnet is a number of Internet-connected devices, each of which is running one or more bots. Botnets can be used to perform Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, steal data, send spam, and allow the attacker to access the device and its connection.

The owner can control the botnet using command and control (C&C) software. The word “botnet” is a portmanteau of the words “robot” and “network”. The term is usually used with a negative or malicious connotation.

What Are Botnets Used For?

Botnet creators always have something to gain, whether for money or personal satisfaction. Most of the motives for building a botnet are similar to those of other cybercrimes. In many cases, these attackers either want to steal something valuable or cause trouble for others.

In some cases, cybercriminals will establish and sell access to a large network of zombie machines. The buyers are usually other cybercriminals that pay either on a rental basis or as an outright sale. For example, spammers may rent or buy a network to operate a large-scale spam campaign.

Types of Botnet Attacks

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) is an attack based on overloading a server with web traffic to crash it. Zombie computers are tasked with swarming websites and other online services, resulting in them being taken down for some time.

Phishing schemes imitate trusted people and organizations for tricking them out of their valuable information. Typically, this involves a large-scale spam campaign meant to steal user account information like banking logins or email credentials.

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Brute force attacks run programs designed to breach web accounts by force. Dictionary attacks and credential stuffing are used to exploit weak user passwords and access their data.

How To protect Yourself Against Botnets

  1. Improve all user passwords for smart devices. Using complex and long passwords will help your devices stay safer than weak and short passwords. Such as ‘pass12345.
  2. Avoid buying devices with weak security. While this isn’t always easy to spot, many cheap smart home gadgets tend to prioritize user convenience over security. Research reviews on a product’s safety and security features before buying.
  3. Update admin settings and passwords across all your devices. You’ll want to check all possible privacy and security options on anything that connects device-to-device or to the internet. Even smart refrigerators and Bluetooth-equipped vehicles have default manufacturer passwords to access their software systems. Without updates to custom login credentials and private connectivity, hackers can breach and infect each of your connected devices.
  4. Be wary of any email attachments. The best approach is to completely avoid downloading attachments. When you need to download an attachment, carefully investigate, and verify the sender’s email address. Also, consider using antivirus software that proactively scans attachments for malware before you download.
  5. Never click links in any message you receive. Texts, emails and social media messages can all be reliable vehicles for botnet malware. Manually entering the link into the address bar will help you avoid DNS cache poisoning and drive-by downloads. Also, take an extra step to search for an official version of the link.
  6. Install effective anti-virus software. A strong internet security suite will help to protect your computer against Trojans and other threats. Be sure to get a product that covers all your devices, including Android phones and tablets.
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Botnets are difficult to stop once they’ve taken root in user’s devices. To reduce phishing attacks and other issues, be sure you guard each of your devices against this malicious hijack.