With all the movies and TV series focused on zombies lately, many of us seem to have zombies on the brain. Think they don’t actually exist? Oh but they do – in the form of business and personal computers compromised with malicious software capable of engaging all kinds of nasty behavior.
Networks of zombie computers are called botnets, and many experts believe that botnets now represent the single biggest cyber threat, to businesses and to consumers:
- They can make millions of dollars for their creators, usually global cyber gangs. When law enforcement recently took down the Citadel botnet, they found it was actually a collection of nearly 1,500 separate botnets that between them controlled more than 1.2 million infected computers that helped make the gangs more than half a billion dollars.
- Botnets are increasingly hard to detect and to eradicate. They evolve, improve, disappear for a time and then resurface in a more advanced and dangerous form.
- They can cause massive disruption, especially to infected businesses, and are often capable of downloading antivirus software so that they can detect and evade any attempts to remove them.
- The easy availability of affordable DIY botnet kits means that hackers with even poor skill levels can deploy these threats and just add to the danger.
And consumers are not immune. In an SC Magazine article, security firm Kindsight Security Labs reported that nearly half of all home network infections were as a result of malware planted by botnets.
Botnets are the favored tool of cyber crooks because not only are they easy and cheap to deploy, they serve as a global platform for all kinds of criminal activities that can include spreading and sharing malware, distributing and hiding stolen information and identity credentials, distributing porn, and attacking other computers and networks.
Another reason they’re so favored is that the leaders of the criminal enterprises can distance themselves from the attacks by using a variety of lower level crooks to do the risky work.
Once a botnet has been created, it can also be rented to other hackers. Which is not good news, because it means the botnet creators can focus just on creating the botnets, which also means they can get much better at it.
An experienced botnet gang, often referred to as bot herders, can infect tens of thousands of computers in a single day and make tens of thousands of dollars a week renting out these botnets. Some botnets have included more than 10 million infected computers.
While detection is important, prevention is more important. Detecting and eradicating botnets can be very tricky, especially as they become more sophisticated. Preventing them in the first place is by far the easiest and cheapest solution. To block botnets from attacking a website it is recommended to use a Web Application Firewall, such as SiteLock TrueShield™.