Monday, July 18, 2011

The Botnet Menace

          To begin with, a botnet is a collection of hijacked computers. Botnets are comprised of hundreds sometimes thousands of hijacked computers that are designed to coordinate spam attacks. These collections of hijacked computers are controlled by an operator that pools together the collected power of the group to wreak havoc across the web. Hackers look for the most vulnerable and unprotected computers to target their hijacking.

          Think of a botnet like a parasite, viruses are spread across the web infecting different types of hosts. The virus doesn't kill the host because it needs the host to survive and spread copies of itself. The virus then communicates with the botnet operator's command server to coordinate bursts of spam and other malicious activity. The main goal for botnet operators are to inflict financial damage or to profit from stealing personal information.

          But, how can you tell if your computer might be a bot? Some red flags to look for are strange messages in your outbox, e-mails in your inbox warning you to stop spamming and sluggish computer speed. You must react quickly to these red flags because there are consequences to leaving your computer unprotected. For example, your ISP (internet service provider) will cancel your service if they notice suspicious activity with your network. Therefore, take action by using anti-virus software and your firewall. If you notice any type of suspicious activity with your computer or online account report the issue to your ISP and the government immediately.

          However, just having anti-virus software and a firewall is nowhere near enough protection. For instance, one way hackers can get around anti-virus programs is by using social networking sites, e-mail and spoof websites to trick the user into downloading their virus. Hackers are constantly developing new strategies to cause mayhem. For instance, designing the virus to plant itself in hidden locations that make it difficult to detect and remove. In my opinion, the best way to consistently protect your computer is to keep up to date with virus news. Just being aware and up to date is a excellent prevention method. Additional prevention steps include.

  1. Download files cautiously and avoid file-sharing websites
  2. Turn on your firewall
  3. Check your inbox/outbox for suspicious mail
  4. Configure your anti-virus to scan and update automatically 
  5. Use secure unique passwords

Most importantly, slow down and think before you click. Take your time to validate sources and stick to the websites that you trust.  

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