A bot is a software program that performs an automated task. These tasks are usually repetitive and run without interaction. Bots make up nearly 38% of all internet traffic, with bad bots generating one in five website requests. Bad bots perform malicious tasks that allow an attacker to remotely take control over an affected computer. Once infected, these machines may also be referred to as zombies. These days, bad bots are big business, with cybercriminals around the world using them to fraudulently access accounts, attack networks, and steal data.
Although taking over one computer is useful, the real value to a criminal comes from collecting huge numbers of zombie computers and networking them so they can all be controlled at once to perform large-scale malicious acts. This type of network is known as a “botnet”. Botnet owners use them for large-scale malicious activity, commonly Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Unfortunately, botnets are growing more popular among cyber criminals because they are very cheap to set up and can offer extremely lucrative ransom or theft rewards.
As bots continue to increase in sophistication, IT teams find it harder and harder to tell the bad bots from the good, or even from human users. As a result, bots are a blind spot in many cybersecurity strategies that most IT teams aren’t ready to address. Unlike many types of cyberthreats, bots can be difficult to defend against. Because there are both good bots and bad bots, it can be hard for your cybersecurity defenses to differentiate.
While bots have been around for decades, recent attacks have placed bots firmly in the public consciousness. Russian-linked bots were used to spread disinformation across social media during the 2016 US presidential election, with more than 10 million suspicious tweets and two million GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts sent by troll accounts, while in 2018 a bot attack was used to create a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that brought down the internet for most of the East Coast.
Some of the major reasons cybercriminals use Botnet attacks are listed below :
- To steal financial and personal information
- To attack legitimate web services
- To extort money from victims
- To make money from zombie and botnet systems
The threat from malicious bots is severe and ever-growing. There are a few things we can do to keep malicious bots out of your network and prevent our devices and bandwidth from being used in a criminal botnet attack. We have to make sure that we enact strong endpoint security practices and keep our software and hardware up to date with all the latest patches. We can also proactively prevent some bot traffic by blocking known bot hosting providers and proxy services.
In addition, users should be trained to help them avoid bot infections through standard security practices, and should be strongly advised not to click on or open suspicious emails, attachments, or links. If bots make it through our defenses, they can usually be discovered if we monitor our traffic sources for unusual activity, traffic spikes, junk conversions, or anomalous failed login attempts. Malware developers are always looking for new ways to get around security measures, and there is the risk of infection because of actions taken by you or by another person who used the computer or system. We should make sure to use advanced internet security software that can detect and stop viruses and other malware, even if we accidentally click a link, download a file, or take other actions that can let infections onto your machine.