As the nights get darker and the creepiest night of the year draws near, we can't help but think of ghouls, goblins, and all the things that go bump in the night. But while most people are concerned with the supernatural entities of Halloween folklore, there's another kind of ghouls we should be wary of: the ones potentially lurking in our computers, the 'zombie networks' or 'botnets.'
What Are Zombie Networks?
A zombie network, or botnet, is a network of compromised computers controlled by a central entity, often for malicious purposes. These infected computers are effectively turned into 'zombies,' executing commands from the botnet's controller, known as the 'botmaster.' The scary part? You might not even know that your machine is part of this undead army.
How Do Zombie Networks Form?
Much like a virus turning humans into zombies in horror movies, malware infects computers and turns them into zombie machines. This often happens when users click on suspicious links, download infected attachments, or use insecure networks. The malware then spreads, allowing the botmaster to take control of the affected computer.
What Do Zombie Networks Do?
The capabilities of zombie networks are as diverse as they are frightening. They can:
Send Spam Emails: Zombies can distribute thousands of spam emails, infecting more and more computers in the process.
Launch DDoS Attacks: A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack can overload a website's server, making the website temporarily unavailable.
Steal Personal Data: Zombies can harvest data like passwords, credit card information, and social security numbers.
Crypto Mining: The botmaster can use the computing power of zombie machines for cryptocurrency mining, affecting your machine's performance.
Send out spyware and adware: Zombies can spread spyware and adware at a rapid pace.
The Reality of the Threat
According to cyber security reports, millions of computers worldwide are part of zombie networks. These botnets are responsible for a significant chunk of cybercrime, including some of the most devastating cyber-attacks in history. The worst part is that it's often difficult to trace back to the botmaster, allowing them to haunt the digital world like a faceless ghost.
Infamous Zombie attacks
Mirai: Perhaps the most frightening botnet attack in recent history. The 2016 Mirai DDoS targeted the domain hosting system Dyn managing to bring down many high-profile sites and platforms like Netflix, Spotify, PayPal, Twitter, Fox News, and more. The Mirai attack of 2016 highlighted that that even the most prepared and cyber security savvy organisations can fall victim to a botnet attack.
Github: GitHub faced a DDoS attack that temporarily shut down its services, indicating that no organization is too tech-savvy to be targeted.
Hong Kong: The 2014 "Hong Kong" attack zeroed in on pro-democracy websites during the periods of civil unrest and used DDoS tactics to bring them down.
Trickbot: Was a massive banking trojan that was notoriously hard to remove and required a massive global collaborative effort to take it down.
Warding off the Ghouls
So, how do you keep these digital zombies at bay? Here are some tips:
Keep Software Updated
Just as garlic wards off vampires, updated software can ward off malware. Software developers regularly release security patches, so make sure your operating system and antivirus software are up-to-date.
Be Cautious with Links and Downloads
If a link or download seems suspicious or comes from an unknown source, it's best to avoid it. This will reduce the chances of malware sneaking into your system.
Use a Firewall
Firewalls act as barriers between your computer and potential threats from the internet. This can keep the zombie-making malware at a distance.
Regular Scans and testing
Frequent antivirus scans can identify and remove existing malware before it transforms your computer into a zombie.
This Halloween, as you enjoy the thrills and chills of the spooky season, remember that there are real threats lurking in the shadows of the internet.
Zombie networks are a very real and present danger. By taking the right precautions, you can ward off this digital threat and ensure that the only zombies you encounter are the ones knocking at your door, asking for treats… or brains.
So go ahead and enjoy your Halloween—but keep your digital doors locked, and your cyber garlic at the ready. After all, you never know what might be lurking in the depths of your machine, waiting to join the ranks of the undead.