What is a Botnet

Botnet Definition

The name botnet is a combination of the words “robot” and “network”. Botnets are networks of hijacked computer systems that are used to execute different schemes and cyberattacks. Botnet assembly is often the first step of a multi-layer strategy. Bots are used to automate large attacks such as data theft, server failure, and virus spread.

Botnets utilize your devices to scam others or cause disturbances – all without your knowledge. “What is a botnet attack, and how does it work?” you may wonder. To build on this botnet description, we’ll explain how botnets are created and used.

How Botnet Works

Botnets are designed to expand, automate, and accelerate a hacker’s capacity to carry out bigger attacks. A single hacker, or even a small group of hackers, can only perform so many activities on their local machines. However, for a low cost and a small amount of time, they may obtain a large number of new machines to use in more efficient processes.

  • A bot herder leads a host of hacked devices via remote controls. A herder utilizes command programming to direct the following steps after compiling the bots. The entity assuming leadership may have built up the botnet or by renting it out.
  • Each malware-infected user device that has been taken over for usage in the botnet is referred to as a zombie computer or bot. These devices follow the orders of the bot herder blindly.

The basic stages of building a botnet can be simplified into a few steps:

  1. Prep and Expose: Hacker exploits a vulnerability to expose users to malware.
  2. Infect: User devices are infected with malware that can take control of their device.
  3. Activate: Hackers mobilize infected devices to carry out attacks.

Stage 01: Prep and Expose

Hackers discover a weakness in a website, program, or human behavior, which leads to exposure. The purpose is to expose the user to malware infection without their knowledge. Hackers frequently exploit security flaws in software or websites or spread malware via emails and other online messaging.

Stage 02: Infect

When a user performs an action that compromises their device, they become infected with botnet malware. Many of these methods include convincing individuals to download a certain Trojan infection through social engineering. Other attackers may be more active, doing a drive-by download after visiting an infected website. Regardless of the manner of delivery, cybercriminals eventually compromise the security of numerous victims’ systems.

Stage 03: Activate

When the hacker is ready, stage 3 begins by assuming control of each computer. The attacker groups all infected PCs into a network of “bots” that they may control remotely. A cybercriminal will frequently attempt to infect and control hundreds, tens of thousands, or even millions of machines. The cybercriminal can then assume command of a vast “zombie network,” i.e. a fully formed and operational botnet.

What does a botnet do?

Once infected, a zombie computer allows access to admin-level operations, such as:

  • Reading and writing system data
  • Gathering the user’s personal data
  • Sending files and other data
  • Monitoring the user’s activities
  • Searching for vulnerabilities in other devices
  • Installing and running any applications

What is Botnet Controllable?

Many modern devices, even those you would not think of, have some type of computer. A botnet may attack nearly any computer-based internet device, indicating that the threat is continually expanding. Take aware of the following popular devices that are hijacked into botnets to protect yourself:

Traditional computers: like desktops and laptops running Windows or macOS have long been attractive targets for botnet development.

Mobile devices: As more people use mobile devices, they have become another target. Smartphones and tablets have historically been use in botnet attacks.

Internet infrastructure hardware: used to enable and support internet connections may also be co-opted into botnets. Targets include network routers and web servers.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices: include any linked devices that exchange data via the internet. Alongside computers and mobile devices, examples might include:

  • Smart home devices (thermometers, security cameras, televisions, speakers, etc.)
  • In-vehicle infotainment (IVI)
  • Wearable devices (smartwatches, fitness trackers, etc.)

All of these devices, when combined, may be corrupted to form large botnets. Because the technology industry has been oversaturate with low-cost, low-security products, you are especially vulnerable as a user. Bot herders can attack your devices undetected if you don’t have anti-virus software.

How Do Hackers Control a Botnet?

Controlling a botnet requires issuing commands. However, the attacker values anonymity just as much. As a result, botnets are control remotely.

Command-and-control (C&C): All botnet instruction and leadership are provided by the server. This is the bot herder’s primary server, from which all zombie computers get orders. In the following models, any botnet can be direct directly or indirectly via commands:

  1. Centralized client-server models
  2. Decentralized peer-to-peer (P2P) models

01 Centralized models: are control by a single bot herder server. In a variant of this architecture, more servers tasked as sub-herders, or “proxies”, may be added. In both centralized and proxy-based hierarchies, however, all orders flow down from the bot herder. Either structure exposes the bot herder to discovery, making these outdated approaches less than ideal.

02 Decentralized models: Distribute the instruction tasks to all zombie computers. As long as the bot herder can communicate with any of the zombie computers, the commands can be sent to the others. The peer-to-peer arrangement hides the identity of the bot herder party even further. P2P is becoming increasingly popular due to evident advantages over prior centralized solutions.

What Are the Botnets Use For?

Botnet creators are always looking for a means to make money or obtain personal happiness.

  • Financial theft : by extorting or directly stealing money
  • Information theft : for access to sensitive or confidential accounts
  • Sabotage of services : by taking services and websites offline, etc.
  • Cryptocurrency scams : using users’ processing power to mine for cryptocurrency
  • Selling access to other criminals : to permit further scams on unsuspecting users

The majority of the motivations for creating a botnet are similar to those for other types of criminality. In many situations, these attackers are motivate by a desire to either steal something important or cause trouble for others.

Cybercriminals may set up and sell access to a huge network of zombie PCs in some situations. Buyers are often other cybercriminals who pay either on a rental or outright sale basis. Spammers, for example, may rent or own a network in order to conduct a large-scale spam campaign.

Despite the numerous advantages for a hacker, some people construct botnets simply because they can. Regardless of the motivation, botnets are eventually utilize for all forms of attacks, both on botnet-controlled users and on other persons.

Types of Botnet Attacks

While botnets can represent an attack in and of themselves, they are an excellent instrument for carrying out secondary frauds and cybercrimes on a large scale. Some examples of common botnet schemes are as follows:

  1. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) : is a type of attack that involves flooding a server with web traffic in order to cause it to crash. Zombie computers are charge with crowding websites and other online services, causing them to go down for an extended period of time.
  2. Phishing : Schemes copy reputable persons and organizations in order to defraud them of important information. This is often accomplish by a large-scale spam campaign design to steal user account information such as banking logins or email passwords.
  3. Brute force attacks : execute programs design to brute-force online account breaches Dictionary attacks and credential stuffing are use to get access to data by exploiting weak user passwords.

How to Protect Yourself from Botnets

Given the risks to your and others’ safety, it is critical that you defend yourself from botnet malware. Fortunately, software protections and little changes to your computer habits can help.

Following are the six tips:

  1. Improve all smart device user passwords. Using complicated and lengthy passwords is more secure than using weak and short passwords. For example, ‘pass12345’.
  2. Avoid purchasing equipment with insufficient security. While it’s not always obvious, many low-cost smart home devices put user comfort above security. Before purchasing a product, read reviews on its safety and security features.
  3. Update your admin settings and passwords on all of your devices. Check all potential privacy and security options on everything that links devices to one another or to the internet. To access their software systems, even smart refrigerators and Bluetooth-enabled automobiles have default manufacturer passwords. Hackers can infiltrate and infect each of your link devices if custom login credentials and private connections are not update.
  4. Any email attachments should be avoid. The best strategy is to avoid downloading attachments entirely. When you need to download an attachment, research thoroughly and verify the sender’s email address. Consider utilizing antivirus software that checks attachments for viruses before you download them.
  5. Never click on any links in any mail. Botnet viruses can be sent by text, email, or social media messaging. Avoid DNS cache poisoning and drive-by downloads by manually typing the link into the address bar. Also, go the extra mile and look for an official version of the link.
  6. Install reliable anti-virus software. A solid internet security package will help in protecting your computer from Trojans and other dangers. Make certain that the product you purchase covers all of your devices, including Android phones and tablets.


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