As the world shifts into more and more of a digital realm, physical threats are no longer the only concern. Now, for many, cyber-attacks are a much more relevant reality. The idea of security threats should not instill fear, rather it is simply an aspect of computer-use and internet surfing that should be always taken into consideration so that all can better protect themselves and in turn their personal information.
What Are Bots?
Bots, a shortened term used for programmed robots, are scripts or software apps that are designed to execute specific auto-pilot tasks. Although bots outside of the hacking world can be utilized for many valuable purposes such as automating user interaction and social media management, when in the wrong hands or applied by individuals with malicious intentions, these robots can become dangerous and a real security threat.
Bots are the core foundational tool utilized for remote cyber-attacks and they make up more serious implementations, such as botnets and zombies.
What Are Botnets and How Do They Work?
Botnets are networks of bots used to infect and upload malicious malware onto a chain of devices. Once a botnet has been implemented, the infected device then also becomes the infectee. This all takes place in extreme stealth mode, which is how botnet chains often go undetected, continuing to pose a threat to a long extension of systems.
In some cases, famous botnets have been able to infect many hundreds of millions of computers and networks, and even once they are thwarted they can be modified into new variations that continue to do damage. Because those with infected devices are often unaware of there being any breach of their technology, they can transfer the malware to others quite easily.
A master-bot is typically in charge of giving bots orders, and the bots often report back to manager-bots which then communicate with the master-bot. This system is highly organized and allows for the individual or individuals in charge to easily manage massive networks of botnets, all while remaining heavily under the radar. For this reason, generating botnets is a low risk, high reward undertaking that often proves to be very successful for those who develop solid malware.
One surprising fact about botnets is that the actual operations behind the attacks are minuscule in size, sometimes made up of only one or two individuals, yet the effects of such implementations are on a mass scale and often highly detrimental.
What Are Zombies?
Botnets, or a network of infected computers under attack remotely, are also referred to as zombie computers. Zombies or zombie computers, specifically, relate to the computers themselves that are capable of passing along malicious and risky security breaches.
What Do Hackers Gain from Cyber Attacks?
There are many reasons why hackers carry out cyber attacks such as zombie attacks, and most of the time it relates to financial gain. You see, information is often bought and sold on the internet, and commonly for a big price. By stealing personal and financial information, hackers receive compensation for any data they are able to provide to those who are interested.
Botnets can be used to generate intricate scams as well, tricking consumers into providing personal information, along with flat out handing over money. Additionally, those who don’t fall for these scams could be attacked unknowingly and identities can be stolen, which are then used for purchases and running up loans.
One of the worst ways a hacker or cybercriminal can use gained information for financial gain is by extorting money from unsuspecting victims by threatening them with a leak of personal information or compromising photos, documents, etc. This is a technique that has been used on large companies and organizations as a means of blackmailing them into cooperation. Often times, companies can do nothing more than agree to pay the sum, for thwarting a security breach like this is extremely difficult and requires an extensive team of specialists.
Cybercriminals also hire other cybercriminals for their own gain, leasing their botnets and further spreading compromising digital and internet infections across many platforms. For some, the financial gain received from a leased botnet system is far greater than what they are paying the initial zombie attack developer.
How Can One Know If Their Device Is Infected?
Because zombie attacks are often rather rogue, it can be challenging to know if any of your devices have been infected. A reputable anti-virus program usually can detect botnets and will alert you if it discovers an attack. Aside from this, there are at times signs that your computer could be impacted. If you experience your computer slowing down significantly, suddenly running its cooling fan without warning, or any other strange behaviors happening, there’s a chance your device has some sort of breach and should be cleaned up.
How to Better Protect Your Information
The absolute best way to minimize the chances of your device becoming compromised by a botnet or malicious zombie attack is by ensuring that your computer or network is protected with an up-to-date, highly reliable anti-virus, anti-malware, or internet security software. Luckily, there are many free programs that can do the trick but research is needed to decide which option is best for you and your devices. Run your anti-virus programs on a regular basis for a full-computer scan.
The next step after you have successfully implemented internet security software is to monitor your internet usage. Many attacks can be prevented by using discretion and common sense when browsing the web or downloading files. Never download files from unsecured sources or from individuals you do not recognize, even if you receive an attachment in an email. Do not click on links or download files sent by spam email addresses.
Finally, regularly change your passwords for your accounts. This can help to minimize the possibility of someone accessing your data or profiles and then applying a botnet or other security threat from within the account. Furthermore, regularly updating passwords and further securing your accounts can prevent any of your personal information from getting stolen, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, home addresses, phone numbers, and more.
Understanding Zombies, Bots, Botnets, and Cyber Attacks: Summary
Remaining informed and in the loop with regards to the various extents of potential cyber-attacks is extremely valuable in this day and age when security breaches can affect literally anyone that uses a computer; oftentimes unknowingly and without warning. By understanding zombies, bots, and botnets along with what their presence entails, the proper measures can be set into place for successful cyber protection. Even those who are not interested in IT or computer-related details should be up-to-date with how to better protect confidentially and potentially compromising information.
Having a deep awareness of such threats is even more crucial for those entering careers in IT, software development, or programming because at some point you will likely come face to face with such security threats and the proper actions will need to be taken to foil any potential breaches.
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