So how much spam could botnets like Gameover Zeus actually trick your computer into sending? A botnet is one of the most powerful tools hackers have at their disposal to send out massive waves of spam. I covered a botnet in 2013, for example, that stole millions of Facebook and Google passwords.
Botnets aren't your typical ransomware. In fact, they're built to stealthily take bend your computer to the whims of a computer hacker. Most of the spam email that you receive is, most likely, being sent through various computers controlled by massive botnets. Here's how they work.
Once installed on your computer, a botnet quietly "calls home" to receive a list of instructions. These instructions can include, according to Sophos's Naked Security blog:
- Logging your keystrokes to steal online usernames and passwords.
- Searching through your files for interesting data to steal.
- Tricking you into clicking on ads to generate pay-per-click revenue.
- Posting "recommendations" for your friends on your social networks.
- Downloading more malware, for example ransomware that scrambles your data and demands an unlock fee.
- Acting as a proxy, or relay, and charging rent to other crooks so they can use your Internet connection to cover their tracks.
- Attacking other people's websites, making you look like the crook.
Sophos security experts decided to figure out exactly how much data the typical botnet would be able to send. Keep in mind that all of this data was sent at the cost of anyone infected with the virus, the hackers who infect enough computers to build a botnet pay nothing. Here's the information that they found:
- 5.5 million email addresses were spammed.
- 30 gigabytes of outbound email were sent.
- 750,286 unique spam messages were sent.
- 26% included another item of malware.
- 74% contained links to a pharmaceutical website.
Botnets can be extremely valuable for hackers. That's why it's important to learn how to stay safe. Feel free to browse one of the resources available in my security center for protecting your computer from becoming the tool of digital crooks.
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