Defining a Botnet Attack and How to Prevent One

Defining a Botnet Attack and How to Prevent One

Botnet is defined as a combination of two words- robot and network. In general terms, it is a group or network of computers or other devices that are connected to each other via the internet. By utilizing malware, a cybercriminal infects these devices and converts them into an army of puppets who afterwards mindlessly carry through with their orders.

Botnet attacks are increasingly common as well as complex these days. However, the big question is “what are they exactly? How do they work?, what are they capable of and how can they be prevented?.

Explaining a Botnet Attack

Botnet attacks utilize the model of command and control, to enable one or more cybercriminals to execute the actions of those devices (usually known as zombie bots) from a remote area. The strength of a botnet attack increases with the increase in the quantity of devices infected from the malware used by the hacker.

Any device that has the ability to access the internet can be used as a zombie bot in a botnet attack that can put corporations in jeopardy.

This is mainly a fact when consistent antivirus software updates are not provided to a device. Each of the five major categories of Internet of things (IOT) applications can form security risks, which can include consumer, commercial, industrial, smart city infrastructure, or military arenas, etc. Regarding each of these fields, the market is spammed with IOT devices which are lacking security.

Vulnerable devices might consist-

  • Computers
  • Mobile phones
  • Network routers
  • Tablets
  • Web servers
  • Security cameras

Why are Botnet Attacks Such a Huge Issue?

Cybercriminals can cause huge damage to an organization’s system by themselves or with the assistance of a small team. But, most of them willingly spend a little bit of time and capital to develop a botnet attack that can influence their efforts by a huge margin.

Botnet attacks are a lot more harmful as compared to a single malware attack. It is due to the fact that instead of infecting a single device, botnets can damage thousands of connected devices at the same time. This forms a rampant threat that is much more difficult to stop.

The fact that makes them more dangerous is that they can use approaching software updates from the infected devices for redirecting or upscaling their attack on the fly.

This is beneficial for the attackers to be ahead of the countermeasures adopted by their victims. By being armed with a large army of zombie bots, a single attacker can harm more than just compromising the entire network. They can easily replicate and share their malware, hijack increasing number of devices as unwilling recruits.

Functioning of the botnet attacks

Botnet attacks are executed by either a single individual or an entire team of cybercriminals. In any way, the zombie bots are controlled by a bot leader, which is the person driving the attack. The bot leaders can create their own  botnet from scratch or borrow it from other cybercriminals.

Once infected, the zombie bots are controlled by anonymous entities through a centralized client server model or a decentralized peer to peer model.

Phases of a botnet attack

The various stages of a botnet attack include-

  • Discovering a vulnerability
  • Infecting the devices of the users
  • Activating the attack

The Utility of a botnet attack

Botnet attacks are used for the following purposes-

  1. Monitoring the activity of the user
  2. Gathering user data
  3. Installing and operating applications
  4. Transferring personal data or files
  5. Identifying weaknesses in other network devices
  6. Putting the data in the system
  7. Stealing money immediately
  8. Payment extortion
  9. Cryptocurrency mining
  10. Stealing company confidential data
  11. Putting up the stolen information up for sale

Ways to prevent a botnet attack

The following measures can be taken to prevent a botnet attack-

  • Updating all the systems from time to time
  • Providing user awareness training
  • By enabling multi-factor authentication
  • Monitoring the network traffic
  • Adopting a passwordless atmosphere
  • Implementing zero trust policy

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