When people hear the word “hacker”, they generally associate it with the idea that they are all shadowy individuals that are brilliant with computers and try to break into government facilities on a daily basis.
For the most part though, what many people would call “hackers” are just regular people like you and me. Alone, most hackers have a hard time with some malicious activities. It’s extremely difficult to shut down a website on your own for example. This is why, in most cases, you don’t hear about a particular hacker on the news but instead an organization of cyber criminals. However, there is a tool that allows an individual to execute large scale cyber attacks. It’s called a botnet.
What is a botnet?
A botnet is a group of computers that work together to complete a task. These computers are connected to the internet, and the task that they are working on together is distributed among them. This means that an individual who has control of the botnet can use the infected computers for whatever they want.
There are a lot of slang terms for the word botnet. Some people refer to a botnet as a group of drones, a zombie army, or a group of robot computers.
What computers are involved in a botnet?
Most botnet computers are just owned by normal unsuspecting people. A botnet acts as a type of virus. A user can become infected with the virus that will add their computer to the botnet. Often, the user won’t even know that their computer is a part of a botnet. It doesn’t display like a normal virus would.
What makes a botnet dangerous though is that there are staggering amounts of computers that are actively infected with one. Recently, the United States Department of Justice arrested a group of cyber criminals that were using a botnet that had infected over 10 million computers. That was only one though. There are still many other botnets around the world.
Often, the user won’t even know that their computer is a part of a botnet.
How does a botnet work?
A botnet uses command and control tools. The herder, which is the name of the person who is controlling the botnet, uses a C&C tool to execute commands with the drones. The most common form of control for botnet involves IRC, which stands for internet relay chat.
What can a botnet do?
Botnets have a varying amount of uses. They can be used for click fraud, which is where the drones will be used to click on website advertising banners to generate ad money. A botnet can be used for DDOS, or a distributed denial of service, attack. The infected computers can send spam as well.
Probably the most dangerous thing that a botnet can do to a user is be used as a key logger, which will try and steal user login information for websites. The botnet can be configured to eavesdrop on computer activity and report particular keystrokes on specified websites like Facebook. Botnets are one of the most dangerous tools that a cybercriminal can have in their possession.