A botnet is a dedicated network of interlinked devices employed by cyber criminals to achieve a wide variety of nefarious aims. Botnets consist of compromised computers whose owners are often blissfully unaware that their devices have been enslaved by a threat actor, sometimes called a “bot master”.

The name “botnet” is an abbreviation of the two words “robot” and “network”. After a bot penetrates a device’s defences, its master can assume control of the computer, adding it to the collective, and command it using standard network protocols via established communication channels.

Attacks using botnets have become an increasingly popular tool of cybercriminals due to how easy it is to access them. Today, it’s both affordable and easy for threat actors to rent the use of a botnet via the dark web for use in their attacks, giving them access to the combined power of hundreds and thousands of devices. Here, we’ll explore five abilities botnets have that can be used against their victims.

1. Sending out spam

Botnets are commonly used to dispatch large batches of spam emails. Taking advantage of a botnet can provide spammers with a highly cost-effective method of executing their campaign, with the enslaved devices acting as a mass mailing system distributing their malicious messages.

2. Targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks

Launched against a company or government website, these attacks see botnets used to send multiple requests to servers for specific content simultaneously, to the point where they cannot cope and are knocked offline. Even the largest websites may struggle to stay online when hit by a relentless torrent of requests from a targeted botnet assault.

3. Committing advertising fraud

A largescale botnet that includes five or even six figures’ worth of compromised computers based around the globe can generate a high volume of fake clicks on advertisements helping cybercriminals to raise serious capital. Recent reports suggest that billions are lost by marketers every year from this insidious tactic.

4. Helping phishing sites to stay active

Access to a wealth of different devices in a botnet can enable those running phishing and pharming sites to frequently alter the domains they use. This can help them to keep operating anonymously and remain off the radar of law enforcement agencies.

5. Distributing malicious software

Among the more common and most dangerous abilities of botnets is their capacity for delivering an extensive range of harmful software, from malware and spyware, to dedicated ransomware that sees many large enterprises paying up huge sums of money for the safe return of their data or access to essential operating systems.

Comprehensive protection for enterprises

Botnet infections are often delivered via social engineering tactics in phishing emails. At Galaxkey we have developed a secure workspace that offers a host of protective features for enterprise professionals. Staff can verify email senders, encrypt messages, and request digital signatures to ensure they are communicating with legitimate entities, helping them avoid mail-based attack vectors. To test-drive our security solution for your team, contact us today and book your free trial.