What is Botnet – Full Botnet Explanation.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity, one term that has gained notoriety is “botnet.” A botnet refers to a network of compromised computers or devices controlled by a malicious actor, often without the knowledge or consent of the device owners. Botnets have become a significant threat to individuals, organizations, and even nations due to their ability to carry out various malicious activities. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of botnets, exploring their composition, functioning, and the potential risks they pose. Let’s begin by understanding the fundamental concept of a botnet.
A botnet, short for “robot network,” is a collection of internet-connected devices that have been infected with malicious software, known as bots or zombies. These infected devices, often referred to as “bots” or “zombies,” are typically personal computers, smartphones, or even Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The compromise of these devices can occur through various means, including phishing emails, social engineering, or exploiting software vulnerabilities.
Once a device becomes part of a botnet, it is under the control of a central command-and-control (C&C) server operated by the botnet operator, also known as the “bot herder.” The bot herder can issue commands to the infected devices, instructing them to carry out specific actions collectively. These actions can range from sending spam emails, launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, stealing sensitive information, spreading malware, or even mining cryptocurrencies using the computational power of compromised devices.
Different Types of Bots
Here is a list of the most used bots in the internet today, their features and command set.
XtremBot, Agobot, Forbot, Phatbot
These are currently the best known bots with more than 500 versions in the internet today. The bot is written using C++ with cross platform capabilities as a compiler and GPL as the source code. These bots can range from the fairly simple to highly abstract module-based designs. Because of its modular approach, adding commands. Or scanners to increase its efficiency in taking advantage of vulnerabilities is fairly easy. It can use libpcap packet sniffing library, NTFS ADS and PCRE. Agobot is quite distinct in that it is the only bot that makes use of other control protocols besides IRC.
UrXBot, SDBot, UrBot and RBot
Like the previous type of bot, these bots are published under GPL, but unlike the above mentioned bots. These bots are less abstract in design and written in rudimentary C compiler language. Although its implementation is less varied and its design less sophisticated. These type of bots are well known and widely used in the internet.
GT-Bots and mIRC based bots
These bots have many versions in the internet mainly. Because mIRC is one of the most used IRC client for windows. GT stands for global threat and is the common name for bots scripted using mIRC. GT-bots make use of the mIRC chat client to launch a set of binaries (mainly DLLs) and scripts; their scripts often have the file extensions .mrc.
Malicious Uses of Botnets
The Anatomy of a Botnet
1. Infection Stage
The process of forming a botnet typically begins with the infection stage, where the attacker gains control over a target device. This can be achieved through various techniques, such as exploiting software vulnerabilities, utilizing drive-by downloads, or tricking users into running malicious executables.
2. Command and Control (C&C)
Once infected, the compromised device establishes a connection with the botnet’s command and control infrastructure. The C&C server acts as the central coordination point for the botnet, facilitating communication between the bot herder and the infected devices. It enables the bot herder to issue commands, update the botnet’s functionality, and receive data from the infected devices.
3. Botnet Operation
With the infected devices under their control, the bot herder can harness the combined computing power of the botnet to carry out malicious activities. These activities can include launching large-scale DDoS attacks to overwhelm targeted websites or services, distributing spam emails to propagate scams or malware, or engaging in credential stuffing attacks to compromise user accounts.
4. Persistence and Expansion
To maintain the longevity of the botnet, the bot herder employs techniques to ensure the infected devices remain under their control. This may involve implementing persistence mechanisms, such as rootkits or backdoors, which allow the attacker to maintain access to the compromised devices even after a system reboot. Additionally, bot herders continually seek to expand their botnet by infecting new devices, thereby increasing their network’s size and potential impact.
Types Of Botnet Attacks
Denial of Service Attacks
A botnet can be used as a distributed denial of service weapon. A botnet attacks a network or a computer system for the purpose of disrupting service. Through the loss of connectivity or consumption of the victim network’s bandwidth. And overloading of the resources of the victim’s computer system. Botnet attacks are also used to damage or take down a competitor’s website.
Fast flux is a DNS technique used by botnets to hide phishing and malware delivery sites behind. An ever-changing network of compromised hosts acting as proxies.
Any Internet service can be a target by botnets. This can be done through flooding the website with recursive HTTP or bulletin-board search queries. This mode of attack in which higher level protocols are utilized to increase the effects of an attack is also termed as spidering.
It’s a software which sends information to its creators about a user’s activities – typically passwords, credit card numbers and other information that can be sold on the black market. Compromised machines that are located within a corporate network can be worth more to the bot herder, as they can often gain access to confidential information held within that company. There have been several targeted attacks on large corporations with the aim of stealing sensitive information, one such example is the Aurora botnet.
Its exists to advertise some commercial entity actively and without the user’s permission or awarenes. For example by replacing banner ads on web pages with those of another content provider.
Spamming and Traffic Monitoring
A botnet can also be used to take advantage of an infect computer’s TCP/IP’s SOCKS proxy protocol for networking applications. After compromising a computer, the botnet commander can use the infected unit. (a zombie) In conjunction with other zombies in his botnet (robot network). To harvest email addresses or to send massive amounts of spam or phishing emails.
Moreover, a bot can also function as a packet sniffer to find and intercept sensitive data passing through an infected machine. Typical data that these bots look out for are usernames. And passwords which the botnet commander can use for his personal gain. Data about a competitor botnet installed in the same unit is also mined. So the botnet commander can hijack this other botnet.
Access number replacements are where the botnet operator replaces the access numbers of a group. Of dial-up bots to that of a victim’s phone number. Given enough bots partake in this attack, the victim is consistently bombarded. With phone calls attempting to connect to the internet. Having very little to defend against this attack. Most are forced into changing their phone numbers (land line, cell phone, etc.).
Keylogging and Mass Identity Theft
An encryption software within the victims’ units can deter most bots from harvesting any real information. Unfortunately, some bots have adapted to this by installing a keylogger program in the infected machines. With a keylogger program, the bot owner can use a filtering program to gather only the key sequence typed before. Or after interesting keywords like PayPal or Yahoo mail. This is one of the reasons behind the massive PayPal accounts theft for the past several years.
Bots can also be used as agents for mass identity theft. It does this through phishing. Or pretending to be a legitimate company in order to convince the user to submit personal information and passwords. A link in these phishing emails can also lead to fake PayPal, eBay. Or other websites to trick the user into typing in the username and password.
Botnets can also serve to spread other botnets in the network. It does this by convincing the user to download after which the program is executed through FTP, HTTP or email.
Pay-Per-Click Systems Abuse
Botnets can be for financial gain by automating clicks on a pay-per-click system. Compromised units can be to click automatically on a site upon activation of a browser. For this reason, botnets are also for earning money from Google’s Adsense. And other affiliate programs by using zombies to artificially increase the click counter of an advertisement.
Risks and Impact of Botnets
Botnets pose significant risks to both individuals and organizations, with far-reaching consequences. Let’s explore some of the potential risks and impacts associated with botnets:
1. DDoS Attacks
One of the most common uses of botnets is to carry out DDoS attacks. By leveraging the collective bandwidth and processing power of the infected devices, bot herders can overwhelm target websites or online services, rendering them inaccessible to legitimate users.
2. Spam and Phishing Campaigns
Botnets are often used to propagate spam emails and phishing campaigns. The vast number of compromised devices allows for the rapid dissemination of malicious messages, leading to financial losses, identity theft, and the distribution of malware.
3. Data Theft and Unauthorized Access
Infected devices within a botnet can be used to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial data, or personal identifiable information (PII). Additionally, attackers can exploit the compromised devices to gain unauthorized access to networks or systems, further compromising security and privacy.
4. Cryptocurrency Mining
As the popularity of cryptocurrencies has surged, so has the utilization of botnets for illicit cryptocurrency mining. Bot herders leverage the computational resources of the compromised devices to mine cryptocurrencies, ultimately profiting at the expense of the device owners.
5. Malware Distribution
Botnets serve as an effective vehicle for the distribution of malware. Attackers can utilize the infected devices to launch large-scale malware campaigns, infecting unsuspecting users and potentially causing widespread damage to systems and networks.
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