A botnet is the name given to a collection of enslaved internet-connected computers and other devices that have been infected by malicious software, empowering a cybercriminal to control their functions.

Threat operators employ them to execute dedicated botnet attacks, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, credential leaks, the theft of data and unauthorised access.

How do botnet attacks work?

Botnet masters may have access to many thousands of computers at any given time and are in a position to command them, often to conduct malicious activity. Cybercriminals first acquire access to these compromised devices through the use of specialised Trojans, designed to attack the security systems on a computer. After unlocking access, the botnet master deploys software that can command and control, enabling them to conduct their insidious activities on a wider scale. The more interconnected devices in the botnet, the greater the strength of such a fully automated attack, as simultaneous assaults can be aimed at a chosen target.

What different kinds of botnet attacks are there?

The aforementioned DDoS attacks use botnets to overwhelm servers and knock sites offline with unplanned downtime. Due to the torrent of communications being sent via the botnet, systems are unable to cope, leaving websites inoperable to real users.

Credential-stuffing attacks are botnet attacks where long lists of credentials that have been leaked are validated, resulting in accounts being taken over. There are also web app attacks, which are botnet tactics used to steal everything from personally identifiable information (PII) to confidential company contracts. Other forms of botnet attack are specifically designed to allow a threat operator access to a dedicated device and its specific connection to a firm’s network.

Sometimes, botnet masters will sell their amassed network’s capabilities to other cybercriminal groups for use in their nefarious campaigns. A common use for such a mercenary zombie network is in largescale spamming operations.

How many devices are involved in a single botnet?

The precise number of devices involved will vary from one botnet to another and will depend on the capacity of the botnet master to infect vulnerable devices, but botnets comprising over 75,000 enslaved devices have been recorded.

The impact of a botnet assault can be lethal for firms, ranging from devices performing far more slowly and affecting productivity, to exorbitant internet invoices and stolen private data. The legal ramifications of having your company’s devices enslaved and used to attack other enterprises are also worth consideration.

Keeping your company safe from cybercrime

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