What are these “botnets” you keep hearing about? Botnets (think roBOT + NETwork—gets you “BOTNET”) are a network of secretly compromised, run-of-the-mill home and office computers that have malicious software—controlled by a solitary hacker or cybercrime ring.
Hackers use botnets to execute a variety of cybercrimes like page rank sabotage, mass spamming, bitcoin mining, and more. The FBI says there are 18 botnet infections every second worldwide and these infiltrations pose one of the gravest online threats ever. That figure means over 500 million computers a year are infected.
Needless to say, these attacks can occur without the user knowing it. Botnets will swipe the user’s personal and financial data and can result in stolen credit cards, website crashes and even record your keystroke habits.
The FBI is trying fervently to crumble the botnet empire, as this costs billions of dollars in fallout. And botnetting is on the rise. Hackers aren’t just going after Joe Smo’s credit cards, but top government secrets and technology.
This situation is compounded by another facet of the U.S. government using botnets to build up its power. Think NSA, with its pervasive surveillance program. NSA is assuming control over botnet-infected devices, using these for their own purposes.
NSA, in fact, has a legion of “sleeper cells,” according to the document that was leaked by Edward Snowden. These are remote-controlled computers infested with malware, and as of 2012, were on 50,000 networks.
So we have our government fighting to dismantle botnets, yet simultaneously, building up their arsenal with…botnets. So how on earth will this problem ever be mitigated?
It starts with you.
- Pay attention if you notice that your Internet connection is unusually slow or you can’t access certain sites (and that your Internet connection is not down)
- Make sure you have comprehensive Antivirus security installed on all your devices.
- Be careful when giving out your email address, clicking on links and opening attachments, especially if they are from people you don’t know
- Stay educated on the latest tactics that hackers and scammers use so that you’re aware of tricks they use
- Keep your devices operating systems critical security patches updated.