How the internet bots are becoming a threat for your computer and creating an unsecure envirinment for website owners
If you’ve noticed that your computer is slowing down to a crawl lately and for no apparent reason, one of the possible causes comes in the form of malicious internet bots that have secretly seized control over your device.
What exactly is an internet bot?
Internet bots, also known as web robots, WWW robots or simply bots, are software applications that perform repetitive tasks automatically or on a schedule over the internet, tasks that would be too mundane or time-consuming for an actual person. Search engines use them to surf the web and methodically catalogue information from websites, trading sites make them look for the best bargains in seconds, and some websites and services employ them to deliver important information like weather conditions, news and sports, currency exchange rates.
Unfortunately, not all bots roaming the internet are useful and harmless. Cyber crooks have also noticed their potential and have come up with malicious bots – programs designed to secretly install themselves on unprotected or vulnerable computers and carry out whatever actions they demand. And that could be anything from sending spam to participating in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) that brings down entire websites.
Turning your computer into a zombie
Once infected, your computer becomes part of a botnet – a network of infected or zombie-computers controlled from the distance by a cybercriminal who rented it to carry out his illegal plans. So not only is your computer infected and your internet security compromised, but your system resources and your bandwidth are rented out to the highest bidder to help them attack other unsuspecting users or even legitimate businesses. This huge potential for cybercrime makes these botnets what some security experts believe to be the most dangerous threat on the internet today.
Such networks comprising hundreds or thousands of infected devices have the resources needed to perform high-scale malicious actions such as:
- Mass-spam delivery that floods millions of inboxes in a matter of seconds
- DoS and DDoS attacks that crash entire websites and can put legitimate businesses in serious trouble
- Brute-force hacking attacks by cracking passwords and other internet security measures
- Identity theft and internet fraud by collecting private information from infected users
How can this happen to your device?
Bots can sneak up on you in many ways. They can use the vulnerabilities and outdated software in your system to infect it while you’re casually surfing the web. They can be delivered by Trojans or questionable software you get tricked into downloading (like rogue antivirus programs). Or they can be sent directly to your inbox as an email attachment by spammers or even by the infected computer of one of your friends.
Basic safety measures against bots and botnets
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to prevent your computer from joining the army of cyber-zombies:
- Be extra-careful with e-mail attachments. Even when you know the e-mail address they are coming from, they could be sent by a nasty piece of malware without the sender’s knowledge. Never ever open executable (.exe) files.
- Ignore suspicious web ads and pop-ups. Don’t believe them when they entice you to open links or download files, even if they promise you nice prizes or scare you with a malware related warning.
- Choose your internet security software carefully. Computer protection is definitely something to be picky about.
- Make sure all your software is updated. Outdated programs make perfect entry ways for bots and other malicious programs, so keep an eye out for updates and patches.