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Rootkits and Botnets; Hidden Threats to Cybersecurity

By University Alliance
Rootkits and Botnets; Hidden Threats to Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals know they must always stay one step ahead of cyber criminals, who continuously develop new methods to access networks for malicious purposes. With increasing frequency, they are using rootkits and botnets, which can make you a victim of cyber crime without you even realizing it.

What are Rootkits?

A rootkit is a piece of software, sometimes part of a larger package, which can be installed on your computer without your knowledge. Attackers who use rootkits install them by taking advantage of vulnerabilities on your computer or enticing you to unintentionally download the rootkit. The rootkit then allows the attacker to take control of your computer system.

Not all rootkits are malicious, but they can hide malicious activities. The attacker who owns the rootkit can change your system configurations, access data, execute files and monitor your computer usage without detection.

There are some legitimate uses for rootkits. For example, law enforcement personnel may need to monitor criminal activity, and employers often monitor employees’ use of the organization’s network.

What are Botnets?

“Bot” is short for “robot.” A bot is an automated program that enables a cyber criminal to gain control of a computer while remaining undetected. A botnet is a group of computers or a network, controlled by a cyber criminal called a “botmaster.” The botnet is programmed to do whatever the botmaster instructs it to do, whether it’s generating spam, committing fraud or spreading viruses.

Botnets can range from just a few to tens of thousands of victim computers, which are often referred to as “zombies.” Bots spread across the Internet, searching for vulnerable computers, then stay hidden until they are instructed to carry out a task. Business networks can be adversely affected if infected by a bot.

Botnets are often used in Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, or for stealing sensitive data such as credit card numbers or bank accounts.

The Threats They Post to Cybersecurity

Rootkits and botnets are particularly dangerous because they remain hidden. Since they are not easily detected, they cannot be easily removed or disabled. Some botnets have the ability to change themselves every few uses, circumventing antivirus software that scans for specific pieces of code.

If your computer is a victim of a rootkit or botnet, it might slow down. Even worse, you could be at risk for financial loss or identity theft. In addition, an attacker might monitor your every move, or you could be assisting cyber criminals without your knowledge.

Precautions You Can Take to Protect Yourself

Rootkits and botnets are difficult to detect. That’s why it’s important to safeguard your computer system or network against these threats. Try these proven cybersecurity tips for reducing your risk of vulnerability to rootkits and botnets:

  1. Use Strong Passwords:Make it difficult for attackers to guess your password. Don’t allow your computer to remember passwords. Enter them each time they are required. Use different passwords for various websites and devices.
  2. Install A Firewall:Firewalls may be able to avoid infections by blocking some malicious traffic from accessing your computer.
  3. Install Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Programs:They will scan and monitor your computer for known viruses. Use a trusted source. Beware of fake anti-virus software, which could be delivered in an email or through a pop-up box on the web.
  4. Keep Software Updated:Install all software updates, which are designed to patch vulnerabilities as they are identified.
  5. Use External Drives With Caution:Flash or thumb drives can be infected with malware and can corrupt your computer.
  6. Use Caution Using the Internet and Email:Attackers deliver malware through downloads that look like images or movies, or through links in your email. They commonly trick users into clicking on buttons that carry a fake warning that their computer has a virus.
  7. Follow Good Cybersecurity Practices:Never open an email attachment unless you can absolutely verify the source. Increase your computer’s security settings and set them to update automatically. Update anti-virus software regularly.

Safeguard Your Computer with These Cybersecurity Tips

Cyber criminals are constantly developing new techniques to infect computers for malicious purposes. But you don’t have to be a victim. Get the cybersecurity training you need to protect yourself and your business, and stop attackers from accessing your computer for malicious purposes.

Category: Cybersecurity & Information Assurance