In the kingdom of malware, the botnet reigns supreme.
Botnets are so effective they can take over any internet-connected device: be it a smart television, a web router, or your company’s IT network.
In truth, botnets are little more than good technology gone bad. A web of interconnected computers that you could use to host a web forum or manage your customer service chat — but criminals prefer to use botnets to take over entire IT networks, instead.
Botnets are just one of the many dangers that lurk on the internet. Here’s how they work and what you can do to protect your devices from infection.
What Is A Botnet?
First, let’s dig into the nuts and bolts of a botnet.
In the right hands, a botnet is the engine house of the internet.
It’s a string of connected computers that can perform repetitive tasks on behalf of people, and that’s a good thing.
These kinds of botnets help the internet tick over. They help websites run without a hitch. And their use is entirely legal, while they benefit everyone by maintaining a smooth user experience, online. However….
Botnets are so powerful that criminals can use them for less virtuous activities — which is why you need to beware of the malicious botnet.
Malicious botnets gain access to machines through malware and viruses.
In some cases, they hack a computer directly. In others, a program known as a ‘spider’ will crawl company websites searching for flaws in their security. Then, hack the site when it finds a vulnerability to exploit. With what in-mind?
Ultimately, botnets want to add as many machines as possible to their network of connected devices, which they do via drive-by downloads.
Or, by tricking you into installing a trojan horse virus onto your computer as you click a corrupt email attachment, a pop-up ad — or mistakenly download malware from a compromised website.
What Happens When a Botnet Infects Your Device?
Once you’ve downloaded the trojan horse: the botnet will contact its master network to notify it that your computer, your phone, your smart tv — is now under control of the botnet’s creator.
The botnet then has free reign to access and modify personal information, attack other computers, or commit a cyber-crime.
The more devices the lead network has under its control, the more effectively the botnet can carry out attacks. Attacks that involve completing repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently, like the below:
- Using your device to power DDoS attacks to take websites offline
- Emailing spam from your business address to millions of people
- Generating fake website traffic for financial gain
- Creating spoof pop-up ads that force you to pay for their removal
These days, social media botnets play a role in spreading fake news to influence elections, while the WannaCry attack in 2017 caused $4 billion in losses by crippling computer networks in 150 different countries. The lesson?
It pays to protect your website against botnet infection.
5 Ways To Protect Your IT Network From Botnets
Botnets can infect nearly any device with a wireless connection. More sophisticated botnets can even seek-and-destroy.
That is, they can automatically find and infect vulnerable devices: meaning that if one part of your network has a weakness (an outdated operating system, inadequate antivirus software, a rehashed password), then the whole of your network is at risk.
Worse, botnets are extremely difficult to detect. They use tiny amounts of computing power.
So, a performance issue won’t alert you to their presence, with most botnets laying dormant until the time comes to launch a devastating attack.
And that’s why you must avoid infection in the first place, which you can by following these guidelines.
1) Keep your operating system up-to-date
The most effective way to avoid malware is to keep your OS updated. Software developers like Apple and Microsoft work tirelessly to combat known threats. And they respond when risks arise. So, if you set your OS to auto-update, you’ll stay protected by always running the latest version.
2) Pay for adequate antivirus software
Antivirus software actively eliminates the threat of botnet infection. It’s worth paying for comprehensive protection, and if you can find software that covers all your devices (not just your computer), even better. Then, just as with your OS — keep the software up-to-date.
3) Delete ALL suspicious email attachments
Email attachments often prove too tempting to ignore, and so an infected email is one of the cybercriminal’s favorite tools. If you see a message in your inbox from a questionable source, delete it. And never open an attachment that you don’t 100% trust, even if you recognize the sender: bots can use personal contact lists to spam friends and family.
4) Never click a suspicious link
If an attachment doesn’t tempt you, an embedded email link just might, but remember: links to malicious websites are equally common sources of malware. Avoid clicking them at all costs. You can always check the link address by hovering your cursor over the hypertext to see where the URL goes. If it looks suspicious, Google the URL to check for known cases of fraud. Then, if you trust the link, copy/paste the URL directly into your browser and navigate to the site manually.
5) Avoid file-sharing services
P2P file-sharing websites are the botnet’s best friend. It’s easy for a bad actor to plant an infected link, then share the file throughout the network. If you can find a more reliable alternative to transfer data, do so. If you have to use a P2P service, always get your antivirus software to scan any download before you execute the file.
In a world of connected devices: the size, strength, and power of botnets will only grow. Acting smart is the only way to protect your IT network. With your identity, your data, and your business on the line….
It pays to be aware, lest a botnet tries to catch you out.
Keep your IT network safe from malware: get in touch today on 207-236-0021 to hear how remote monitoring can prevent botnet infection.