In the world of cybersecurity, the term ‘botnet’ and ‘botnet attack’ are often confused with ‘bot’ and ‘bot attack’, respectively, but they are actually not similar to each other.
A ‘bot’, is an automated software that is programmed to automatically perform tasks, typically simple but repetitive tasks like copying and pasting content, posting comments (spams), clicking on ads, and so on. Thus, a ‘bot attack’ refers to any cybersecurity attack vectors that utilize malicious bots in the process.
Botnets, however, are an entirely different story although bots might still be involved in botnet attacks.
Here, we will learn all you need to know about the botnet, botnet attacks, and especially how to prevent botnet attacks on your network.
Without further ado, let us begin.
What Is a Botnet?
A botnet is a term referring to a group of devices (computers, IoT devices, smartphones, etc.) that have been compromised they are under the control of a cybercriminal. A cybercriminal, for example, can use malware to gain control of a device, or alternatively might have gained access to the device’s legitimate owner’s credentials via brute force attack, credential stuffing attack, or other means.
In turn, the cybercriminal can use the botnet to carry out other forms of cyberattacks, most commonly DDoS attacks by sending a massive amount of requests to another network.
When the concept of botnet started to become a reality a while back, only desktop PCs and powerful servers are targeted in the attack. However, now that even your wearables and IoT devices have grown more powerful than ever, and the internet also has rapidly grown, the attack surface for cybercriminals has become much larger.
So, in defending our network/system from botnet attacks, we have to consider two different layers of potential attacks:
- Preventing our device from being converted as a part of a botnet, for example by preventing malware infection
- Preventing our network/system from being attacked by other botnets, for example in a DDoS attack.
Preventing Your Device From Being Forced Into a Botnet
Although there are various methods the attacker can use to convert your device into a part of a botnet, we can generally differentiate them into three major types:
- Account takeover, for example, using bots to perform brute force or credential stuffing attacks
- Malware infection, for example, when your system is unprotected with antivirus and you visit an infected website
- Social engineering, for example, via phishing attack when you are tricked to download an email attachment containing malware, or clicked on a link to a fraud website that will infect your system with malware
Thus, in preventing your system from being converted into a ‘zombie’ device, we have to consider those three alternatives:
1. Investing In a Bot Mitigation Solution
Since many account takeover attempts involve the use of bots, we can effectively prevent these account takeover attempts by installing bot detection/mitigation software.
The thing is, we can’t simply rely on a free and obsolete bot mitigation solution due to two main challenges:
- We wouldn’t want to accidentally block traffic from good bots that are beneficial for our site. For example, Google’s indexing bot. The bot detection solution must be able to effectively differentiate between good bots and bad bots.
- Newer malicious bots are getting much better at impersonating human behaviors like performing non-linear mouse movements, random typing patterns, etc. Traditional approaches like fingerprinting browsers, IP addresses, etc. may no longer work.
Due to the sophistication of today’s shopping bots, a bot management solution that is capable of behavioral-based detection is recommended. DataDome is an advanced bot detection software that uses AI and machine learning technologies to detect and manage bot traffic in real-time. Running on autopilot, DataDome will only notify you when there’s any malicious bot activity but you don’t have to do anything to protect your system.
2. Installing Proper Antivirus/Anti-Malware Solution
Since malware is the number 1 culprit for turning your system into a part of a botnet, it would only make sense to invest in a good antivirus/anti-malware solution paired with a firewall. Same as with bot management, it’s best to invest in an anti-malware solution that can utilize behavioral-based detection to deal with zero-day attacks.
3. Educating Your Team Members About Social Engineering Attacks
Even if you’ve invested in the best infrastructure to defend against malware and bot attacks, your security is only as strong as your least knowledgeable team member. Even a single honest mistake from an employee, for example by giving their credentials in reply to a fake email posing as your company’s HR director (with a seemingly valid email address), can compromise your whole network and might turn all your devices into a part of a hacker’s botnet.
Thus, it’s very important to regularly educate your team members about potential social engineering attacks and cybersecurity best practices. Update this training regularly to include new trends and attack vectors, and test your team member’s cybersecurity knowledge and compliance from time to time.
4. Update Your Software and OS
New malware and viruses are created every single day to target known vulnerabilities in OSs and software.
On the other hand, no software is 100% secure, and this is why the software manufacturers regularly release updates and patches to ‘patch’ these issues. So, make the most of them and make sure all your applications and your OS are up-to-date as soon as these updates are released.
You wouldn’t want to compromise your network and get it infected by malware or other cybersecurity threats just because of a missed or failed update.
You wouldn’t want your network to be converted into a part of a hacker’s botnet, which will eat your resources and potentially slow down or even crash your network, and at the same time, you’ll need to protect your system from being attacked by other botnets, for example in a DDoS attack.
Investing in a real-time anti-botnet detection software such as DataDome remains the best approach to protect your site from malware, botnet attacks, and other cybersecurity threats.
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