The Botnet Threat: The Dark Side of Cloud Computing
Malicious software, or malware, continues to be used by cybercriminals around the world to attack and hijack computers used by businesses, individuals and a wide range of other institutions to form a botnet. When such attacks take control of those machines, cybercriminals are then able to use them to attack more computers with a domino effect that can bring companies and computer networks to their knees.
Botnets begin when malware-infected computers, each called a bot (from the word, robot), become interconnected, gaining power for the cybercriminals to further spread their attacks on potentially millions of other users. This then disrupts IT systems, adding more machines to expand their attacks. Trojan viruses are often used to cause the initial infections.
The botnet attacks allow cybercriminals to gain complete control of the affected computers, usually without the user’s knowledge.
Why Are Botnets Such a Threat to the Modern Enterprise?
Malware attacks are used for data thefts, to obtain personal information from victims, and for disrupting or monitoring IT systems, according to INTERPOL. They are a serious threat to enterprises, their customers and their users. One of the complications from such an attack is from its overall structure. Cybercriminals use the malware-infected machines they “capture” to attack other computers and networks without revealing the true sources of the botnet’s fury. That makes it look like the attacks are coming from one of the infected computers, while hiding the cybercriminal’s actual location. This makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities, and others, to find them.
Botnets are a threat to enterprises because they can be used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which access servers or websites in a flurry, causing them to be overloaded or shut down. They can also be used to send massive amounts of spam emails, which can swarm an infrastructure. These spam emails can also prompt recipients to click links that download or distribute more malware, including keystroke loggers, causing even more damage.
How Can You Protect Your Enterprise From a Botnet?
To fight bot attacks and botnets, enterprises can protect themselves by using quality antivirus and anti-malware applications that monitor, shut down and actively block such threats.
Also critical is ensuring that all company computers, smartphones, tablets, software applications, networks, switches and servers are constantly kept updated with the latest software and hardware patches from vendors to provide the best protection from malware attacks.
Users should also be doing their work behind strong firewalls, and should be trained and constantly reminded not to click on links in emails or on websites from sources they do not know. Companies need to ensure that their users are cognizant of the wide range of security threats that are trying to invade business IT systems.
Taking brisk and ongoing actions against malware and botnets, as well as against other serious threats, should be a critical part of a company’s around-the-clock IT security strategy.