Do you know the difference between a botnet and ransomware, malware or other cyber crimes? October is cyber security awareness month, and there is no better time to review your cyber security policies and stay informed on the latest trends. Although ransomware is often a topic of discussion on our blog posts and on the internet, the greater topic of botnets also needs to be discussed.

What is a botnet? Basically, when a computer becomes infected due to cybercrime, it infects devices with malware, turning them into bots. When a device becomes a bot, it is most often part of a botnet, a larger network of infected devices controlled by hackers.

When a hacker controls your computer without your knowledge, it can control your data or use your computer to send out span. We all have received emails from friends or colleagues that contain attachments or information that we know is not really from the sender. The sender’s device is part of a botnet that can attack other devices, send spam, and deliver ransomware and other malware.

It’s pretty easy for a computer or device to become part of a botnet. The most obvious way is to click on a link that is not familiar to you or to delay updating a browser plugin. The infamous Locky ransomware is sent by email spam and also recruits your computer into a botnet. Social networks and messaging apps can also trick you into clicking on links that are controlled by hackers. Even while visiting a website, you may see a pop-up that says your computer was infected and asks you to download antivirus protection that is really malware.

This month is cyber security awareness month and the best time to take precautions against being vulnerable to a botnet.

Here are steps in prevention:

  • Have the latest security software, web browser and operating system. Make sure you update!
  • Back it up! Back up frequently in the cloud. Make an electronic copy of your data and store it safely.
  • Make strong passwords and change periodically.
  • Don’t click on any suspicious links.
  • Don’t download any attachments that you have not requested.
  • Keep all of your software and apps up to date.
  • Make sure your firewall is on at maximum security level.

Check out other blog posts on cyber security our website for information on staying cyber secure! (See more information on botnets on the heimsdalsecurity blog.)