Botnet malware: How does it work & how to safeguard your networks against it

Botnet malware is now one of the most serious threats to surveillance networks. Because of their ability to hack almost every internet-connected computer, from DVR players to corporate mainframes, they are gaining popularity among cybercriminals.

Botnet malware is now becoming a more prominent topic in cultural debates on cybersecurity. Many politicians and people are concerned about the malicious nature of botnets as a result of Facebook’s false ad scandal and the Twitter bot debacle during the 2016 presidential election. According to recent MIT research, social media bots and automatic accounts play a significant role in the dissemination of fake news.

Botnet mining for cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is a thriving business for cybercriminals. The cycle is expected to continue, with more machines corrupted with mining malware and more digital wallets being robbed.

Botnets are harmful to companies and customers when they are used to deploy ransomware, launch assaults on websites, steal personal information, and defraud advertisers, in addition to manipulating elections and mining cryptocurrencies.

Botnets are clearly harmful, so what exactly are they?

And how do you safeguard your personal data and devices?

The first step is to consider how bots function. The second step is to take preventative measures

How do botnet malware operate?

Consider that the term “botnet” is a combination of the terms “robot” and “network.” This will help you understand how botnets function. Botnets are, in a general context, just that: a network of robots used to conduct cybercrime. Botmasters or bot herders are the cybercriminals that command them.

a) Size is important

Botmasters need as many infected online computers or “bots” under their authority as possible in order to create a botnet. The botnet grows in size as more bots bind. The greater the size of the botnet, the greater the effect. As a result, scale counts. The criminal’s primary target is often financial benefit, ransomware dissemination, or general internet destruction.

Consider the following: You’ve enlisted the help of ten of your mates to contact the DMV at the same time on the same day. There wouldn’t be much else going on except the deafening sounds of ringing phones and the scurrying of State workers. Assume you persuaded 100 of your mates to do the same thing. The sudden flood of such a vast number of signals, pings, and requests will overwhelm the DMV’s phone infrastructure, effectively shutting it down.

Botnets are used by cybercriminals to cause similar disruptions on the internet. They guide their corrupted bot army to overburden a website to the point that it ceases to run and/or access is refused. This kind of attack is known as a denial of service, or DDoS.

b). Botnets infections 

Botnets are not usually designed to hack a single computer; rather, they are intended to infect millions of computers. Bot herders also use trojan horse viruses to install botnets on computers. Users are usually required to infect their own devices by opening email attachments, clicking on malicious pop-up ads, or installing harmful applications from a website. Botnets are then free to view and manipulate sensitive information, target other machines, and perform other crimes after infecting smartphones.

More advanced botnets can also self-promote, automatically locating and infecting computers. These self-driving bots perform seek-and-infect operations, actively scanning the internet for compromised internet-connected computers that lack operating system patches or antivirus software.

Botnets are notoriously difficult to track. They use minimal processing power to avoid interfering with usual computer operations and alerting the customer. More sophisticated botnets are also programmed to change their actions in order to avoid detection by cybersecurity applications. Users are unaware that their wired computer is under cybercriminal influence. Worse, botnet architecture evolves, making newer models more difficult to detect.

Botnets require time to develop. Many would remain dormant inside computers, waiting for the botmaster to enable them for a DDoS attack or spam distribution.

c). Vulnerable devices

Botnets can infect virtually any computer that is connected to the internet, whether directly or wirelessly. A botnet will infiltrate PCs, printers, mobile devices, DVRs, smartwatches, surveillance cameras, and smart kitchen appliances.

While it might sound ridiculous to consider a refrigerator or coffee maker as an unsuspecting victim in cybercrime, it occurs more often than most people know. Insecure passwords are often used by appliance makers to protect entry into their machines, making them easy for autonomous bots scouring the internet to discover and manipulate.

If the Internet of Things continues to put more devices online, cybercriminals have more ways to expand their botnets and, as a result, their degree of influence.

Botnet malware attack

Botmasters use botnets for malicious reasons other than DDoS attacks.

Botnet Malware
Botnet malware attack
  • Advertisement fraud

Botnets’ cumulative computing capacity may be used by cybercriminals to operate fraudulent schemes. Botmasters, for example, create ad fraud schemes by instructing thousands of infected computers to visit fake websites and “press” on advertisements posted there. The hacker then receives a percentage of the advertisement fees for each key.

  • Selling and renting botnets

Botnets are also available for purchase or rental on the internet. Since infecting and manipulating thousands of computers, botmasters search for other cybercriminals that want to use them to spread malware. Buyers of botnets then conduct cyber attacks, distribute malware, or steal personal information.

Botnet and cybercrime laws are constantly evolving. When botnets become more dangerous to internet networks, communications networks, and power grids, consumers must ensure that their computers are properly shielded from infection. Cyber regulations will most likely continue to make people more accountable for offenses committed by their own computers.

Botnet prevention

It should be obvious by now that avoiding botnet infection necessitates a holistic approach that involves healthy browsing habits as well as antivirus security. Now that you understand how botnets operate, here are few ways to hold them at bay.

  • Update your operating system

One of the tips always topping the list of malware preventative measures is keeping your OS updated. Software developers actively combat malware; they know early on when threats arise. Set your OS to update automatically and make sure you’re running the latest version.

  • Avoid email attachments from suspicious or unknown sources

Email attachments are a common cause of infection for many viruses. Do not open attachments from unknown sources. Examine emails received from friends and relatives as well. Bots also use contact lists to generate and distribute spam and tainted emails. The email from your mother may be a botnet disguised as a virus.

  • Avoid downloads from P2P and file sharing networks

Botnets infect machines by using peer-to-peer networks and file-sharing facilities. Scan any downloaded files before running them, or find better ways to move files.

  • Don’t click on suspicious links

Links to malicious websites are typical entry points for contamination, so stop clicking on them after first conducting a detailed inspection. Hover the pointer over the hypertext to see where the URL really leads. Malicious ties enjoy hiding in message boards, YouTube comments, pop-up advertising, and other places.

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