Botnets (and a few other absurdities)

When faced with the word, ‘botnet’, I had no idea of what it was, what it meant, or if it was going to intrigue me enough to write about it, regardless of this I set out to enlighten myself, and committed to writing about this mysterious word.

Turns out the term is actually a combination of the words ‘robot’ and ‘network’, which makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. Typically, bots are used by criminals who ‘distribute malicious software (also known as malware) that can turn your computer into a bot (also known as a zombie)’ (Microsoft, 2014). When this happens, these little bots can make your computer perform automated tasks on the Internet without you even knowing. When there are a number of infected computers, a network is formed, and in turn, the birth of a botnet. A botnet is also known as a zombie army, which sounds pretty cool (we were all thinking it), however they are far more dangerous than cool, and ‘according to a report from Russian-based Kaspersky Labs, botnets — not spam, viruses, or worms — currently pose the biggest threat to the Internet’ (Rouse, 2012).

The person who coordinates this sort of attack is referred to as the zombie master, and their motives are often based on desiring to cripple their competitors, or to make money. In order to do the first, the zombie master would configure a DDoS attack, whereby the botnet is programmed to redirect ‘transmissions to a specific computer, such as a Web site that can be closed down by having to handle too much traffic’ (Rouse, 2012). In order to achieve making money, the zombie master might send spam, or attempt to steal personal and private information including credit card numbers or bank credentials. Both means rely on having access to an unprotected computer, so make sure you’re firewall is updated and prepared for battle!

While botnets can be quite vicious, something I found quite comical was that amidst my attempts to learn about botnets, I came across a number of tutorials on how to create bots! It’s like having a free manual on how to rob a bank distributed outside the bank, it seemed absurd. Then it dawned on me, our entire world is becoming more and more absurd with every new piece of technology introduced.

Take for example the Internet of Things, a concept I will be exploring next week. Between 23 December 2013 and 6 January 2014, Proofpoint researchers detected a specific botnet that was aggressively mailing malicious spam three times a day. “A more detailed examination suggested that while the majority of mail was initiated by “expected” IoT [Internet of Things] devices such as compromised home-networking devices (routers, NAS), there was a significant percentage of attack mail coming from other non-traditional sources, such as connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator.”

A fridge was under the control of a zombie master, and was sending spam! What is this world coming to?



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