What is a Botnet Attack and How Does It Work?


A botnet attack is a sort of cyber attack in which a bad actor controls a collection of internet-connected devices. Botnets are nothing more than a collection of connected gadgets. They are used to launch cyber attacks when cyber thieves implant malware into the network to control them as a group. Botnet assaults can be used to deliver spam, steal data, compromise private information, perpetuate ad fraud, or launch more hazardous Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) operations.

Botnet Attacks against Bot Attacks

Botnet assaults can be conceived of as a subset of the broader “bot attack.” Bot attacks are cyber attacks that make use of automated online requests to manipulate a website, application, or device.

Bot assaults began as basic spamming operations, but have now grown into more intricate operations aimed at defrauding or manipulating users. One of the reasons for this is the availability of botkits, which are open-source tools for constructing bots.

These botkits, which are normally available for free online or on the Dark Web, can be used to perform undesirable tasks such as scraping websites, gaining access to accounts, abusing form submissions, and launching botnet attacks, such as DDoS attacks.

A botnet (short for “robot network”) is a collection of malware-infected computers controlled by a single attacker known as the “bot-herder.” A bot is a single machine that is under the control of the bot-herder. The attacking party can direct every computer on its botnet to carry out a coordinated illegal action from a single central location. The size of a botnet (which can number in the millions) allows the attacker to carry out large-scale operations that were previously unachievable with malware. Infected devices can acquire updates and modify their behaviour on the fly since botnets are controlled by a remote attacker.

The following are some of the most common botnet activities:

Spam botnets are among the greatest in scale, despite the fact that email is now considered an older channel for attack. They’re primarily used to send out massive amounts of spam communications, which often include viruses. For example, the Cutwail botnet can send up to 74 billion messages each day. They’re also used to disseminate bots so that the botnet can recruit more machines.

DDoS attacks– exploit the botnet’s huge size to flood a target network or server with requests, making it unreachable to its intended users. DDoS assaults are carried out against companies for personal or political reasons, or to extort money in exchange for the attack to stop.

Botnets specifically geared for the direct theft of funds from businesses and credit card information are included in financial breaches. Financial botnets, such as the ZeuS botnet, have been blamed for assaults that resulted in millions of dollars being stolen directly from several businesses in a short period of time.

Smaller botnets meant to target specific high-value systems of businesses, allowing attackers to enter and intrude deeper into the network. Organizations are highly vulnerable to these attacks because attackers target their most precious assets, such as financial data, research and development, intellectual property, and consumer information.

Which systems and devices are the most vulnerable?

When botnet assaults reach the news, the damages are frequently expressed in terms of the number of compromised machines or servers. Individual systems, however, are not the only ones that can be corrupted and brought down. Botnet attacks can affect any device that is linked to the internet.

More gadgets are connecting to the internet as a result of the IoT’s expansion, expanding the attack vector possibilities. Even seemingly innocuous wireless CCTV cameras that monitor your porch or backyard can be hacked, allowing botnet software to get access to your network. The fact that such new IoT devices may come with insecure security settings just adds to the problem.

Botnet Attacks Detection

Botnet attacks are difficult to detect since users are often unaware that their devices have been compromised. In a command-and-control approach, some botnets are created with a central server commanding each bot. Finding the central server for these botnets is a crucial step in detecting attacks.

In order to detect infections in devices, static analysis approaches can be useful. These are used to scan for malware signatures and other suspect connections to command-and-control servers that look for instructions and suspicious executable files when the device is not running any apps.

Botnet producers are getting better at avoiding static analysis approaches as they develop more sophisticated tactics to evade discovery.If more resources are available, behavioural or dynamic analysis can be used. Scanning ports on local networks for unusual traffic and behaviour involving Internet Relay Chat is one of them (IRC).

Antivirus software can identify botnet attacks to a degree, but it cannot detect compromised machines. Honeypots are another intriguing technique. These are bogus systems that use a phoney infiltration opportunity to lure a botnet attack.

ISPs sometimes collaborate to identify the flow of traffic and figure out how to thwart botnet attacks, such as the Mirai botnet. They could collaborate with security firms to detect other network devices that have been infected.

How to Protect Yourself From Bot Attacks

Botnet attacks can sometimes surpass even the strongest preventative mechanisms, and by the time you identify them in your network, it’s too late. In such cases, the best course of action is to reduce the severity of the attack. This entails minimising the harm that will be done.

Turn off the central server.

Botnets built using the command-and-control approach can be shut down if the central resource or server is discovered. Consider it as though you were severing the operation’s brain in order to bring down the entire botnet.

Antivirus software should be installed or the gadget should be reset.

The goal for individual machines that have been hacked should be to reclaim control. This can be accomplished by using antivirus software, reinstalling system software, or reformatting the computer from the ground up. To prevent a botnet assault on IoT devices, you’ll need to flash the firmware and perform a factory reset.