A botnet is a network of computers that are collectively infected with a specific type of malware, or malicious software. This network is then controlled by an outside entity and used to send spam email and spread viruses. Read on to learn more about what a botnet is, how to identify this type of infection, and what to do if your personal computer is infected.
How Does a Computer Become Infected?
In most cases, your computer becomes infected and is part of a botnet after you download a computer virus, either through your email or when you click on an Internet link or video that is infected with malware. This malware acts as a trojan horse to allow hackers to gain access to your files and use your PC as part of the botnet system to perpetrate crime, fraud, and online mischief. For example, masters of botnets will use the victim’s computers to steal credit card information, perpetrate service attacks against website providers, send spam messages and other forms of phishing tactics, and install spyware.
How Do You Detect a Malware Infection?
While running antivirus software is a good first step in preventing botnet infection, the reality is that these programs can’t keep up with the sheer number of Internet threats and sometimes, code in the malicious software disables antivirus programs. In addition to antivirus software, you should run a separate utility to find malware. If you have a PC, Windows comes equipped with a Malicious Software Removal Tool, which experts recommend you set to run weekly. If your computer is running more slowly than usual or you are noticing popup ads and unusual programs, chances are that your computer has become infected as part of a botnet. Not only does this affect the usefulness of your computer, but your personal information is also at risk. Many malware programs contain keylogging software and spyware, both of which put you at serious risk of identity theft.
How Can You Prevent Infection?
In addition to running antivirus and antimalware software, you should also take steps to be vigilant about Internet security and privacy. Choose strong passwords and update them regularly. Never turn off your firewall software when browsing the Internet; experts estimate that an unprotected system can be infected in as little as five minutes online. Be careful about the websites you visit and the links you click when online. Don’t download software that’s not from a trusted source. For more information on prevention, visit Microsoft or the Norton antivirus website.
Related Resource: Cyber Security
Botnet infection is rampant among personal computers, particularly in the United States and China. While some botnets consist of only a few hundred or thousand infected machines, others can spiral into millions of machines that are infected with malicious software. Some experts estimate that 12 million computers around the world are infected with this type of software. But by being diligent about Internet safety and executing the privacy measures listed above, you can help keep your PC clean and avoid botnet infestation.