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Glossary

Botnet attack

What is a botnet attack?

A botnet attack leverages a network of infected devices, also known as bots, that are used to perform malicious activity. A botnet attack is typically carried out by a lone attacker controlling the computers (bots), often up to millions of bots. This army of bots gives the attacker the strength and ability to carry out a devastating cyberattack that can overwhelm the target, causing significant disruptions.

What are the types of botnet attacks?

Once a botnet infection occurs, a threat actor can control the malware-infected devices to execute more than one type of cyberattack including:

  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks: A DDoS attack is where botnets overwhelm a website or server with a flood of internet traffic, making it unavailable to legitimate users
  • Spam and Phishing attacks: Botnets can magnify the scale and efficacy of a campaign by automating the initial access part of the attack cycle used to send out large volumes of spam and phishing emails, often to deploy infostealer malware that is designed to steal personal information such as login credentials, passwords, credit card numbers, and more from infected devices. Infostealers are one of the most damaging parts of a campaign and are often a precursor to ransomware. Botnets can even be something of a double whammy,  too – you have to worry not only about critical data being siphoned at scale but also about employee devices becoming part of this network.
  • Data breaches: Botnets can be used during a data breach by cybercriminals to steal sensitive information from organizations.

What is the difference between a DoS attack and a botnet attack?

The main difference is that a Denial of Service (DoS) attack uses a single machine to exploit a software vulnerability or cause disruption by flooding a service with traffic. In contrast, a botnet attack involves multiple infected machines (bots) to amplify the attack, which often (but not always) results in a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. So, while a DoS attack originates from one source, a botnet attack harnesses the collective power of numerous compromised devices, making it more potent and challenging to defend against

How to detect a botnet attack

Detecting a botnet attack quickly is imperative for effective remediation. A common sign of botnet detection is excessive bandwidth consumption. But the best way is to use a virus scanner capable of detecting botnets and other malware. Additionally, monitoring darknet data gives you visibility into compromised users and devices, allowing you to react quickly and limit the scope of the threat.

How do you defend against a botnet attack?

A proactive security posture is key to protecting your organization’s devices from botnets. Endpoint threat detection and response solutions, data backups, MFA, robust access policies – these and other basic security controls are table stakes in helping to minimize your risks against botnet attacks. Enterprises should also consider eliminating BYOD practices that can pose a significant threat to the organization from under-managed and personal devices, where security controls may be more lax, being used for work purposes.

That being said, prevention is only one layer of defense. Malware infections can happen to anyone, even the savviest users. Detecting malware deployed by botnets at the time of infection and quick post-infection remediation of the resulting data that is exfiltrated is an essential part of your defense strategy.

Simply wiping the malware off the device is not enough. You need to know exactly what data was stolen and how it can be used against your organization, and you need to react quickly before the attacker has a chance to do so.

How does SpyCloud help prevent botnet attacks? 

SpyCloud helps organizations mitigate their risk from botnet malware attacks that could lead to ransomware, account takeover, session hijacking, and breaches by proactively detecting exposures and automating remediation of infected devices, applications, and user exposures. Access to this robust dark web data and automation workflows enables security teams to remediate malware infections before bad actors can leverage stolen data and create a bigger problem.

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