If you are a computer user take the time to read this article as it could save you a lot of misery.
A botnet (also known as a zombie army) is a group of Personal Computers (PCs) that is infected with malicious code and controlled by a hacker. These computers can be in excess of hundreds of thousands scattered around the world. Owners of the PCs are unaware of the infections. Most computers compromised in this way are home computers, your computer might be a zombie too. As increasing numbers of home computers have high speed connections and are inadequately protected, hackers exploit them easily.
Even though Botnets are controlled by hackers, anybody who has access to the Internet can buy botnets online from hackers. Botnets with PCs based especially in the US and Britain are more expensive, because they have valuable online banking passwords, credit card details and other financial data.
Why Botnets are dangerous
Financial Data: Criminals use botnets to collect credit card and online banking information from infected PCs.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoSA): Some organizations use botnets to blackout (put offline) websites of their competitors. In the same vain, extortionists threaten owners of websites that have high traffic and big revenues with DDoSA unless a large ransom is paid. Organizations usually pay the extortionists to avoid loss of trade and recovery costs.
Spam & Data Storage: Criminals use botnets to store stolen data, or information acquired through fraud. They also send out loads of unsolicited e-mails (spam), such as defamations and advertisements, to thousands of computers.
Phishing: Botnets are usually used to distribute emails that trick people into revealing their bank details or other important information.
Do not count on your Anti-virus software to prevent your computer from becoming a zombie. Do the following to reduce the chances of your PC from becoming a victim:
Switch off network: Switch off your network when not in use. Your computer can only be useful to a hacker when it is online. Switching off the network is always a sure way of preventing hackers from interfering with your computer.
Switch Browsers: Botnet malware is mostly written for Internet Explorer.
Standardizing on a different browser might prevent your computer from becoming a zombie.
Use a Web-filtering Service: These services are known to be the best way to fight against your computer from becoming part of botnets. The services scan for Websites exhibiting known malicious activities and block those sites on your PC.
Intrusion-Detection System (IDS) and Intrusion-Prevention System (IPS): Acquiring IDS and IPS and fine tuning it to look for botlike activity can also protect your computer. For instance, any machine suddenly increasing activity on Internet Relay Chat is suspicious. Preventing such a machine from further access will protect your machine, if no great damage has been done.
Remedial Tools: Some information security companies claim to have tools to clean computers of any infection. The jury is out on this one, it is up to you to experiment.