November 9th 2018

Is your computer unwittingly part of a botnet?

Malware has the potential to harm your computer in a number of ways, whether it be your PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. A botnet is formed when the security of multiple computers is breached with the same strain of malware, forming a network of machines that the criminal can now remotely manage. This means that your machine, amongst the others in your network, has effectively become a tool for the hacker to use to their own gain.

Determining if you’re part of a botnet
A cybercriminal can potentially control up to millions of computers in the same network. Despite being infected with malware, your machine may still be acting completely normally, which means it’s very hard to tell if you’re part of a botnet. However, there are some signs to look out for:

  • Surprising pop-ups
  • Slow system
  • Spikes in traffic
  • Outbound messages that weren’t sent by you
  • Internet access issues
  • IRC traffic

Why do it?
Cybercriminals use their ‘zombie’ network in order to commit other crimes such as denial of service (DDoS) attacks, online fraud and spreading further malware or spam/phishing campaigns. They can then either sell or rent their network to other criminals.

The consequences to you
The everyday repercussions of unwittingly becoming part of a botnet include; high internet bills, access issues and slow and unstable computer performance. There’s also the potential for much more serious consequences including legal repercussions, data breaches and identity theft.

In 2016, the ‘Mirai botnet’ distributed a wide scale DDoS attack throughout its network, leaving most of the internet inaccessible on the US East Coast. Scarily enough, the Mirai botnet is still up and running and gaining strength along the way.

How does it happen?
Your computer could be infected in a number of ways. Malware is often transmitted through downloads, file sharing, fake scanning, email attachments, social media sites and apps. You’re more at risk if you have no/outdated internet security software.

Removing botnet malware
To defend against botnet malware, only download from verified sites and legitimate trusted sources. Keep your system regularly updated and install a piece of reputable anti-virus software onto your machine. If you’ve detected malware on a machine in your workplace, or on a personal machine which has been connected with a work computer, your entire network has a good chance of being infected. Scan all of your machines in this instance along with USB drives and mobile/portable devices. There are specialised botnet removal tools for this very purpose.

It’s worth ensuring you have a solid defence against cybercrime as the consequences can have a devastating impact on your business. To find out how you can insure your business in the event of a cyber-attack, call the Chartered brokers at Hine on 0161 438 0000. We can arrange comprehensive cyber insurance to cover you and your business in events such as data breaches, business interruption, system damage and more.