What Is a Botnet, Its Architecture and How Does It Work?

A botnet is a collection of internet-connected devices, including personal computers (PCs), servers, mobile devices, and internet of things (IoT) devices unbeknownst to their owner.

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What is a Botnet? How does it work? Definition & Examples | Gridinsoft

What is a Botnet?

November 20, 2023

Have you ever seen bots attack? It can obtain tens of forms, whole flooding websites, certain users on social networks, or videos on video hostings. We usually ignore them, but it is essential to remember that they are always around us. So how do botnets work, and who uses them?

Botnet is a network of devices infected with the same malware, that subordinate to a single (group of) command servers. It can consist of different device types, or even different operating systems. While a significant porting of botnets is used for spamming purposes, hackers may rent them to deliver particular malware.

Aside from size, botnets also differ by the type of malware used to create it. Most common choice for that purpose is, obviously, backdoor malware. However, hacker can also use dropper malware, coin miners or even spyware. Depending on the base malware, the activities done by this botnet may differ as well.

As the networks may consist of tens of thousands of devices, it may be particularly hard to control all the devices at the same time. This forces botnet masters to segment the network by implementing intermediary command servers. This eases the control, and also improves botnet sustainability to disruptions from law enforcement. Structures may differ depending to the hackers' preferences.

Botnet Architecture
Botnet Architecture

Why do cyber cybercriminals need a botnet?

There are plenty of possible applications for any reasonably-sized botnet. Even if it is not on mind at the moment, cybercriminals will find where it can be used – be sure about that. Depending on the malware the botnet relies on, it can feature different functionality. Let’s review it one by one, beginning with the most potent one.

Malware TypeBotnet Functionality
BackdoorDeliver other malware, perform DDoS attacks, mine cryptocurrencies, provide remote access
SpywareProvide remote access, steal specific data types, gather info about the users of infected PCs, deliver other malware (rarely)
Coin minerMine cryptocurrencies
LoaderDelivers other malware

As you can see, two malware types provide the vast majority of functionality one can estimate from the botnet. But such a burden of functionality may overcomplicate making profit from having such a large network on hand. It may be much easier – and not much less profitable – to lease the mining network or give access for threat actors to deploy their malware into the network.

Still, the vast amount of malicious actions underscore the dangers of spyware and backdoors as malware types once again. They are dangerous by themselves, but when used to form the botnet they multiply the danger twin- or even triplefold. Sometimes, a single backdoor-based botnet may be used by numerous malware actors, where each of them has its own target.

Botnet activity in 2023:

How can I understand that my computer is a part of a botnet?

Hackers who created botnets have no reason to ensure that the victim knows that it's computer is hacked. Since they have thousands of computers in their network, losing a single PC or even ten ones will not significantly affect them. They may start botnet activity even when you are using your computer. Hence, any strange activity among the listed below is a reason to scan your computer for possible backdoors. Here are the typical signs which indicate that your PC is a part of a botnet:

  • The mouse pointer moves autonomously;
  • You can see the console windows opening chaotically;
  • Browser windows open without your intention;
  • You see the 404 error when trying to open the websites, while having no issues from another device;
  • For laptops: your battery life becomes miserable, without any updates in software or hardware or changes in the program you usually run;
  • For users with metered connections: traffic is consumed extremely fast by app(s) you never used or installed.

At least two of these signs are enough to consider that someone else is using your computer. Don’t panic - crooks who added your computer to the botnet are likely not interested in your data or other sensitive information. All you have to do is to launch anti-malware software, perform the scan and remove the threat. Although the virus can suspend Microsoft Defender, it can barely disable third-party security tools.

How can I protect my system from turning into a part of a botnet?

It is tough to predict from where the backdoor virus will try to attack your system. Of course, botnets are created not only with backdoors; as mentioned, RATs and stealers are also in this party. Nonetheless, even system administrators can create only passive barriers against viruses. They will be effective until you open the enormous gate for any type of malware - the web browser.

To make your system protected, you need to use anti-malware or antivirus software with a proactive protection function. Security tools with this feature scan the activity of each running application and will detect malware by its behavior. Proactive protection is the most effective solution against backdoors. GridinSoft Anti-Malware is a security tool that can offer you this feature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is botnet a DDoS?
DDoS attack uses one machine to perform its tasks. These tasks include detecting software vulnerabilities and overflowing the target resource with query packages. On the other hand, a DDoS attack uses several devices to fulfill its goals; that's where it needs botnets. Because of that, botnets are not one infected computer but a whole network of infected devices. This leads to the conclusion that botnets are tools that can be purchased to perform a successful DDoS attack.
Are botnet attacks common?
It's more like yes than no. A botnet DDoS attack is a very common attack that can overflow the service with web traffic, eventually leading to its failure. It is very profitable and successful for hackers, so this attack is constant.
What is botnet malware on mobile?
Smartphones are a thing that every Internet user has, so cyber criminals take the opportunity to spread their infections to them as well. Botnets are not only a network of infected computers but also a network of infected mobile devices that are distributed by the type of malware without the knowledge of their owner. So if any protection does not protect your device, bots can also get to your mobile device.
What is the giant botnet?
Srizbi BotNet is considered to be the most common botnet that makes sending spam to the largest audience of users. These botnets are infected with Trojan Srizbi, which gives the command about sending spam emails. The size of Srizbi is about 450,000 compromised devices. It is also known that the botnet can send about 60 trillion Janka daily threats. This botnet showed a significant decline of about 60% in the year.
How can botnets affect your computer?
Infecting a computer for a botnet is not a difficult task. It should only capture the device and then perform all its unauthorized actions. The latter should include: launching attacks such as "denial of service," sending spam emails, distributing malware, and so on.