Cyber security

What are Botnets and How to Take Precautions Against Them?


Defining Botnets

BOTNETS are networks of hijacked computer devices used to perform multiple scams and cyberattacks. Once the bots are compiled, a pastor uses command programming to control his or her next actions. The acquiring party can have set up the botnet or act as a landlord.

Zombie computers, or bots, refer to any malware-infected user device that has been used by the botnet. These devices mindlessly operate under commands designed by the bot-herder.

The basic steps for creating a botnet can be simplified in a few steps:

Prep and Expose – The hacker exploits a vulnerability to expose users to malware.

Infect – Malware is installed on users’ devices that can control them.

Active – Hackers utilize infected devices to commit attacks.

The Level 1 vulnerability begins when hackers find a vulnerability in a website, application, or human behaviour. The goal is to prepare the user to be accidentally exposed to malware infection or send the malware via email and other online messages.

Stage 2 infects the user with botnet malware by taking an action that compromises their device. Many of these tactics involve social engineering tricking users into downloading a specific Trojan. Other attackers can be more aggressive by using a Driveby download when visiting an infected site. Cybercriminals ultimately compromise the security of multiple users regardless of the delivery method. 

Once the hacker is ready, Phase 3 begins with taking control of every computer. The attacker organizes all infected machines in a network of “bots”, which he can manage remotely. Oftentimes, the cybercriminal attempts to infect and control thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of computers. The cybercriminal can act as the head of a large “botnet”, that is, an active and fully developed botnet.

Are you wondering what a botnet is used for? Once infected, a zombie computer provides access to administrator-level operations such as Applications.

Controllable Botnets

Much of the equipment we use today contain some type of computer, even some you may not consider. Almost every computer-based internet device is vulnerable to a botnet, which means the threat is constantly growing. For your protection, some common devices are hijacked into botnets:

Traditional computers, such as desktops and laptops running on the Windows or macOS operating system, have long been popular targets for botnet building. 

Mobile devices have become another target as more people use them. In the past, smartphones and tablets were mainly affected by botnet attacks.

Internet infrastructure hardware used to enable and support Internet connections can also become botnets. Network routers and web servers are known to be attacked.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices include all connected devices that exchange data with each other over the Internet. In addition to computers and mobile devices, examples include:

Smart home devices (thermometers, security cameras, televisions, loudspeakers, etc.)

Vehicle infotainment (IVI) Devices

Wearable devices (smartwatches, trackers for physical activity), etc.)

Hackers can access and damage these devices to create huge botnets. The technology market is saturated with low-cost, low-security devices, which makes you as a user particularly vulnerable. Bot herders infect your devices unnoticed without anti-virus malware.

How Do Hackers Control a Botnet?

Command output is an essential part of botnet control; For the attacker, however, anonymity is just as important, which is why botnets are operated remotely.

Command and control (CandC) is the server source for all botnet management and instruction. This is the main server of the bot-herder, from which each of the zombie computers receives commands.

Each botnet can be controlled either directly or indirectly by commands in the following models:

  • Centralized client-server models
  • Decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) models

Centralized models are managed by a bot-herder server. A variation of this model can be servers, additional managers, subheaders, or “proxies”. However, all commands are filtered into centralized and proxy-based hierarchies by the bot manager. Both structures leave the bot-herder open to discovery, which makes these antiquated methods less than ideal.

Decentralized models embed in all zombie computer devices. As long as the bot-herder can contact one of the zombie computers, it can send the commands to others. The bot-herder group’s identity is further obscured by the peer structure. P2P is becoming increasingly popular due to its evident advantages over prior centralised solutions.

Usage of Botnets

The creators of Botnet always have something to gain, be it money or personal satisfaction.

  • Financial theft – direct extortion or stealing of money
  • Information theft – to access sensitive or confidential accounts
  • Service sabotage – a disconnection of services and websites, etc.
  • Cryptocurrency fraud – Using users’ computing power to mine cryptocurrencies
  • Selling access to other criminals – To enable unsuspecting users to cheat

Most of the reasons for creating a botnet are similar to other cybercrimes. In many cases, these attackers want to steal something valuable or cause trouble for others.

In some cases, cybercriminals will gain and sell access to a large network of zombie machines. The buyers are often other cybercriminals paying on a rental basis or direct sale. For example, spammers can rent or buy a network to run a large-scale spam campaign.

Despite the many potential benefits to a hacker, some people create botnets simply because they can. Botnets are ultimately used to target all forms of attacks, both against botnet-controlled users and others, for whatever motive.

Various Types of Botnet Attacks

Although botnets can be an attack in and of themselves, they are an ideal tool for carrying out secondary scams and large-scale cybercrime. Common botnet schemes include:

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

Imitation Schemes impersonate trustworthy individuals and organizations to deceive them and extract their valuable information. This is usually a large-scale spam campaign aiming at collecting user account information such as bank logins or email passwords.

Brute Force Attacks use programs designed to forcibly crack web accounts. Weak user passwords are exploited via dictionary attacks and credential stuffing to gain access to their data.

Protecting Yourself from Botnets

Given the threats to your security and that of others, you must protect yourself from botnet malware.

Fortunately, software protections and small changes to your computing habits can help.

6 Suggestions to Protect Against Botnets

Do Not Have Simple Passwords

Botnets¬† Improve All Smart Device User Passwords. Using long and complex passwords helps make your devices more secure than short and weak passwords. Like “pass12345”.

Avoid buying devices with poor security

While this is not always easy to see, many cheap smart home devices tend to prioritize user convenience over security. Before you buy, find out about the safety features of a product.

Update administrator settings and passwords on all of your devices

You want to check all sorts of privacy and security options for everything that connects to DeviceTeVice or the Internet. Also, consider using antivirus software that will proactively scan attachments for malware before downloading them.

Never click on links you receive in email messages

Always beware of phishing emails as text messages, email, and social media can be trusted vehicles for botnet malware. Manually entering the link in the address bar can avoid DNS and Driveby downloads through cache poisoning. An extra step to find an official version of the link.

Install effective anti-virus software

A robust internet security package protects your computer from Trojans and other threats. Make sure you get a product that covers all of your devices, including Android smartphones and tablets.

Botnets are difficult to stop once they take root on user devices. To reduce phishing attacks and other problems, protect each of your devices from this malicious hijacking.

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