Frank Abagnale, the Semalt Customer Success Manager, says that in the modern world, zombie armies invade not only screens but the internet as well. They invade the internet in the form of botnets. According to the internet specialists, botnet denotes an army of computers that are infected with similar malware. A bot herder has remote control of such computers allowing them to commandeer zombies and botnets without the knowledge of a victim.
Additionally, bot herders can relay instructions within the computer networks. The instructions are aimed at siphoning banking credentials, credit card numbers, launch attacks against sites, conduct advertising frauds and, deliver malware or spam. Botnets came up in a Senate Judiciary hearing earlier this month with James Comey, the FBI director. Earlier on, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had compared botnets to weeds that do “evil” and requested the director to evaluate one of the biggest scourges one can face using the internet. Comey noted that there was no “good botnet.” He further explained that an army of zombies has bad intentions.
Botnets have been in place for over a decade and have now become the most popular tactics used by hackers to make quick money and hijack machines. According to internet security industry, botnets have resulted in estimated losses of more than $110 billion globally over time. Furthermore, an approximated 500 million computers fall prey to botnet armies attacks every year which translates to about 18 victims per second.
Experts cite Morris worm as the first botnet that was unleashed in 1998. Although this worm infected hundreds of computers on ARPAnet, the predecessor to modern internet, it was truly not a botnet as defined in today’s context. Robert Morris Jr., who created Morris worm did not control the infected computers and never earned any money from his operations.
Presently, botnets are well-ordered criminal enterprises often comprising of millions of infected computers which can bring bot herders or their clients billions of dollars. In 2007, the FBI commenced a crackdown on botnets through an operation dubbed as Bot Roast. A gentleman called John Schiefer was arraigned and convicted in a botnet criminal case that resulted from the process. He was prosecuted under wiretapping act rather than Computer Abuse and Fraud stature, a legislation used to arraign hackers. John’s botnet malware had invaded 250,000 computers, and it was used in siphoning PayPal credentials from victims.
In 2014, a different operation by Microsoft did not work very well. The software giant acquired a court order to seize control of almost two dozen domains that were used by Jenxcus and Bladabindi. Microsoft failed to send commands to the infected machines instead seized suspicious domains hence disabling botnet commands. In the process, the software maker seized many legit domains, thus knocking down site addresses of millions of its clients.
The company acknowledged its mistake and reversed its actions to restore services to the customers. However, the move showed how massive crackdowns on botnets could cause unintended consequences. Despite the fact that some operations to fight bots were successful, there is still no sign of botnet apocalypse waning. This is due to high rate by which the zombies infect machines.