What are botnets and why are they a risk for cybersecurity

A botnet is a very large computer network under the control of hackers, which can be activated remotely and used to hurl numerous cyber attacks

Their name is mainly linked to Mirai, the malware that at the end of 2016 was able to send half of the world's servers into a tailspin by launching a heavy large-scale attack: the infamous Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). We're talking about botnets.

The virus, which has since evolved, exploits vulnerabilities present in some always-connected Internet of Things objects, turning them into devices ready to strike on command. A botnet, in fact, is a network composed of computers and other devices in the hands of hackers. Often the victims don't even realize that their devices have become part of a botnet. Cyber criminals first target devices with malware and then "enlist" them in their dangerous botnet. Computers thus become a dangerous "army" remotely controlled by hackers.

What are botnets

Botnets can be composed of thousands of zombie computers, capable of generating devastating effects. As seen, one of the most feared attacks, among those launched through a botnet, is DDoS. The objective of hackers who launch a Distributed Denial of Service is to interrupt an Internet service. In fact, infected machines are used by cybercriminals to overload servers, which eventually, unable to handle multiple requests at the same time, collapse. And that's not all.

Botnets are also used to conduct spam campaigns: zombie computers have the task of flooding victims' inboxes with advertisements, which in some cases can be malicious. The army of infected machines is also used to spread viruses among the intended victims.

So, botnets are very dangerous and pose a threat to cybersecurity as they are also capable of blocking the operation of the Internet. An army composed of thousands of zombie computers, which can be activated by hackers at any time, can block dozens of web servers.

How to defend yourself

Recognizing that you have been affected is not easy. The "symptoms" of the infection, however, are always the same. Generally, the computer stops working as before. For example, it may become slower or display error messages. To enlist a computer to the botnet, hackers use malware and require the involuntary cooperation of the victims.

To protect yourself, therefore, it is essential to put into practice some simple measures. First of all, it is necessary to keep your PC and antivirus updated against the latest threats. It is also important to make sure that IoT devices at home are up-to-date and password protected. You should also avoid clicking on unknown links and opening attachments from suspicious senders.