What is a Botnet?

A botnet is a network of compromised computers or devices controlled by a single entity, often for malicious purposes. These devices, known as bots, are typically infected with malware, allowing the attacker to remotely command and coordinate them to carry out actions such as spreading malware, launching attacks, or engaging in fraudulent activities.

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What is a Botnet? DDoS and Botnet Attacks in 2024

Botnet Attack

January 14, 2024

A botnet is like a network of robot minions under the control of a single mastermind. In the digital realm, it refers to a collection of compromised computers or devices, each turned into unwitting "bots" through malware. The mastermind can then command this army of bots to perform various tasks, such as spreading viruses, launching cyberattacks, or engaging in other malicious activities, all without the owners' knowledge.

A botnet is a network of devices infected with the same malware, all under the control of one or more command servers. It can include various device types and operating systems. While many botnets are used for spam, some are rented by hackers for specific malware delivery.

Botnets differ not only in size but also in the type of malware used. The most common choice is backdoor malware, but hackers may opt for droppers, coin miners, or spyware. The activities of the botnet depend on the base malware.

Due to their large size, botnets may be challenging to control simultaneously. To address this, botnet masters often segment the network using intermediary command servers. This not only facilitates control but also enhances the botnet's resilience to disruptions from law enforcement. Network structures may vary based on the hackers' preferences.

Botnet Architecture
Botnet Architecture

Why Do Cybercriminals Need a Botnet?

Botnets, when appropriately sized, offer a plethora of applications for cybercriminals. Even if not immediately apparent, cybercriminals will inevitably find ways to exploit their botnets. Depending on the underlying malware, a botnet can exhibit diverse functionalities. Let's explore these functionalities based on the type of malware:

Malware TypeBotnet Functionality
BackdoorDeliver other malware, perform DDoS attacks, mine cryptocurrencies, provide remote access
SpywareProvide remote access, steal specific data types, gather information about infected PC users, occasionally deliver other malware
Coin minerMine cryptocurrencies
Trojan DownloaderDeliver other malware

Notably, backdoors and spyware encompass the majority of functionalities within a botnet. However, managing such a diverse range of capabilities may complicate the profitability of maintaining a large network. Leasing the mining network or granting access for threat actors to deploy their malware may prove simpler and equally lucrative.

The prevalence of malicious actions underscores the inherent risks associated with spyware and backdoors. These malware types, when integrated into a botnet, exponentially amplify the potential dangers. In some instances, a single backdoor-based botnet may be utilized by multiple malware actors, each with their distinct targets.

DDoS & Botnet Attacks in 2024:

How Can I Determine If My Computer Is Part of a Botnet?

Hackers who create botnets typically have no incentive to alert their victims about the compromise. Given the large number of computers in their network, losing a single PC or even ten does not significantly impact them. Botnet activity may commence while you're using your computer. Therefore, any unusual behavior from the following list should prompt you to scan your computer for potential backdoors. Look out for these typical signs indicating that your PC might be part of a botnet:

  • The mouse pointer moves autonomously;
  • Console windows open chaotically;
  • Browser windows open without your intention;
  • 404 errors occur when trying to open websites, despite no issues from another device;
  • For laptops: significant and unexplained battery life depletion;
  • For users with metered connections: rapid consumption of traffic by unfamiliar apps.

If you notice at least two of these signs, it's prudent to consider that someone else may be using your computer. Don't panic - the individuals behind the botnet are likely not interested in your data or other sensitive information. Simply launch anti-malware software, conduct a scan, and eliminate the threat. Although the virus can suspend Microsoft Defender, it's unlikely to disable third-party security tools.

How Can I Protect My System from Becoming Part of a Botnet?

Predicting where a backdoor virus might attempt to attack your system is challenging. While botnets are not exclusively created with backdoors; RATs and stealers are also part of the equation. However, even system administrators can only create passive barriers against viruses, which remain effective until you open the primary gateway for various types of malware - the web browser.

To ensure your system's protection, use anti-malware or antivirus software equipped with proactive protection. Security tools with this feature scrutinize the activity of each running application and detect malware based on its behavior. Proactive protection is a highly effective defense against backdoors, and GridinSoft Anti-Malware is one such security tool that offers this feature.

What to Do If You're a Victim of a Botnet Attack

Discovering that your computer is part of a botnet can be concerning, but taking swift and informed action can help mitigate the impact. Follow these steps if you suspect your system is compromised:

  • Isolate Your Computer: Disconnect your computer from the internet to prevent further communication with the botnet's command servers. This step helps contain the potential damage and protects other devices on your network.
  • Run a Full Antivirus Scan: Use our anti-malware software to conduct a thorough scan of your system. Ensure the software is up-to-date to detect and remove any malicious components associated with the botnet.
  • Update and Patch: Ensure your operating system, antivirus software, and all other applications are updated with the latest security patches. Botnets often exploit vulnerabilities, and updating your software helps close potential entry points for attackers.
  • Change Passwords: Change passwords for all your online accounts, including email, banking, and social media. This step helps prevent unauthorized access and protects sensitive information.
  • Monitor System Activity: Keep a close eye on your system for any unusual behavior even after cleaning it. Unexplained network activity or strange system behaviors could indicate lingering malware or potential re-infection.
  • Seek Professional Assistance: If you're unsure about handling the situation, consider seeking assistance from a cybersecurity professional or your organization's IT support. They can provide expert guidance and ensure a thorough cleanup.

Remember, prompt action is crucial in mitigating the impact of a botnet attack. By following these steps, you can minimize the risk of further damage and regain control of your compromised system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a botnet the same as a DDoS attack?
No, a DDoS attack can uses a single device to overwhelm a target with web traffic. In contrast, a botnet-powered DDoS attack employs multiple devices, forming a network of infected machines. Botnets, therefore, are not just individual infected computers but an entire network of compromised devices. This makes botnets powerful tools that can be employed to execute successful DDoS attacks.
Are botnet attacks common?
Absolutely! Botnet DDoS attacks are widespread, flooding services with excessive web traffic, ultimately causing service failures. This type of attack is lucrative and successful for hackers, making it a constant and prevalent threat.
What is botnet malware on mobile?
Smartphones are ubiquitous, and cybercriminals seize the opportunity to infect them. Botnets extend beyond computers to include mobile devices, distributing malware without the owner's knowledge. If your device lacks proper protection, bots can infiltrate your mobile as well.
What is the giant botnet?
The Srizbi BotNet holds the title of the most notorious botnet, specializing in sending spam to a massive audience. Infected with the Trojan Srizbi, this botnet commands the dispatch of spam emails. Srizbi boasts a staggering size of around 450,000 compromised devices and has been known to unleash approximately 60 trillion threats daily. However, it faced a significant decline of about 60% in the past year.
How can botnets affect your computer?
Infiltrating a computer for a botnet is relatively straightforward. Once a device is captured, the botnet can execute unauthorized actions, including launching attacks such as "denial of service," sending spam emails, distributing malware, and more.