A Closer Look at Botnets

Your home computer may be among the millions of PCs that are under the control of criminals, and worse yet, you may not even be aware of it. Learn more about the dangers of botnets and what is being done to fight against this Internet threat.

The Botnet Threat

Botnets, networks of compromised computers that hackers have commandeered, are one of the most serious and uncontrolled Internet problems of 2007, so much so that botnets have become a leading player in the world of cyber crime.

Between 100 million and 150 million of the 600 million PCs on the Internet are under the control of hackers, Vint Cerf, known as one of the "fathers of the Internet," has estimated. In discussions on the future of the Internet, Cerf has equated the spread of botnets to a disease that has reached a "pandemic" scope.

Botherder

Botnets are part of the multilayered and profitable crimeware industry, where the initial step is to infect and take control of a targeted computer. Bot herders, the hackers who control botnets, can instruct thousands of computers to follow their orders, whether it's to propagate spam messages, launch fraud schemes or to issue denial of service attacks, targeting certain, often high-profile, websites in order to make them unavailable to users. Once bot herders compile a group of compromised machines, they can sell it to fraudsters who are then capable of using the exploited machines for identity and data theft.

How can you do your part to fight the botnet battle? Contributing to the problem is the large number of home users whose computers do not have adequate protection and are easy prey for botnet operators. It is critical that home users install up-to-date firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, in addition to being cautious when going online. If you have been a victim of cyber crime, you can also file a complaint online through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.