Security experts have warned of a huge ‘botnet’ that could bring down the entire internet in the next few weeks.
The botnet, known as Reaper, allows cyber crooks to hack groups of devices including WiFi routers, causing them to crash.
So far, experts estimate that over one million organisations have been targeted worldwide, but warn that a ‘cyber hurricane’ could soon hit.
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Security experts have warned of a huge ‘botnet’ that could bring down the entire internet in the next few weeks. The botnet, known as Reaper, allows cyber crooks to hack groups of devices including WiFi routers, causing them to crash (stock image)
HOW DOES A BOTNET WORK?
Once a botnet’s owner is in control of your computer, they can use your machine in combination with others, over a network called a botnet, to carry out other nefarious tasks.
There are a number of common tasks executed by botnets including:
– Using your machine’s power to assist in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to shut down websites.
– Emailing spam out to millions of Internet users.
– Generating fake Internet traffic on a third-party website for financial gain.
– Replacing banner ads in your web browser specifically targeted at you.
– Pop-ups ads designed to get you to pay for the removal of the botnet through a fake anti-spyware package.
Bots are internet connected devices infected with malware that allow hackers to remotely take control of many devices at a time.
Whether it’s computers, smartphones, security cameras or home routers, many consumers are generally unaware their device may have been corralled into a bot master’s control.
Combined, these devices form powerful networks, called botnets, which can be used to wreak havoc online.
Experts at Check Point have discovered the Reaper botnet, and warn of the destruction it could cause.
In a blog, a spokesperson for Check Point wrote: ‘So far we estimate over a million organisations have already been affected worldwide, including the US, Australia and everywhere in between, and the number is only increasing.
‘Our research suggests we are now experiencing the calm before an even more powerful storm.
‘The next cyber hurricane is about to come.’
Check Point suggests that the botnet first arose at the end of September.
The blog said: ‘An increasing number of attempts were being made by hackers to exploit a combination of vulnerabilities found in various IoT devices.’
In a blog, a spokesperson for Check Point wrote: ‘So far we estimate over a million organisations have already been affected worldwide, including the US, Australia and everywhere in between, and the number is only increasing’
The attacks appear to be coming from a range of different sources and devices, indicating that the attack is being spread by the devices themselves.
Once a botnet’s owner is in control of your computer, they can use your machine in combination with others to carry out other nefarious tasks.
There are a number of common tasks executed by botnets, including spreading malware, generating spam, and commit other types of crime and fraud online.
|1||Russia||13.59 % of Europe|
|2||Italy||10.17 % of Europe|
|3||Germany||8.87 % of Europe|
|4||Turkey||8.46 % of Europe|
|5||Spain||6.43 % of Europe|
|6||Switzerland||4.89 % of Europe|
|7||Ukraine||4.68 % of Europe|
|8||Netherlands||4.50 % of Europe|
|9||Romania||3.79 % of Europe|
|10||Greece||3.37 % of Europe|
Last year, a high profile botnet was created through the spread of a worm dubbed Mirai.
It was used to conduct dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks on several high-profile websites, including Twitter, Spotify and Reddit, by infecting a network of devices.
A DDoS attack is used to target a specific machine, server or website.
This is accomplished by flooding the chosen machine, server or website with simple requests for information in order to overload it and prevent it from being used.
Hackers use ‘botnets’ to do this by getting users to inadvertently download software, typically by following a link in an email or agreeing to download a corrupted file.
These botnets are then used to bombard the servers with requests, carried out simultaneously, causing them to become overwhelmed and shut down.
FIVE STEPS TO MORE SECURE ONLINE OPERATIONS
Even using this checklist can’t guarantee stopping every attack or preventing every breach. But following these steps will make it significantly harder for hackers to succeed.
1) Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Most major online services, from Amazon to Apple, today support 2FA.
When it’s set up, the system asks for a login and password just like usual – but then sends a unique numeric code to another device, using text message, email or a specialized app.
Without access to that other device, the login is refused. That makes it much harder to hack into someone’s account – but users have to enable it themselves.
2) Encrypt your internet traffic. A virtual private network (VPN) service encrypts digital communications, making it hard for hackers to intercept them.
Everyone should subscribe to a VPN service, some of which are free, and use it whenever connecting a device to a public or unknown Wi-Fi network.
3) Tighten up your password security. This is easier than it sounds, and the danger is real: Hackers often steal a login and password from one site and try to use it on others.
To make it simple to generate – and remember – long, strong and unique passwords, subscribe to a reputable password manager that suggests strong passwords and stores them in an encrypted file on your own computer.
4) Monitor your devices’ behind-the-scenes activities. Many computer programs and mobile apps keep running even when they are not actively in use.
Most computers, phones and tablets have a built-in activity monitor that lets users see the device’s memory use and network traffic in real time.
You can see which apps are sending and receiving internet data, for example. If you see something happening that shouldn’t be, the activity monitor will also let you close the offending program completely.
5) Never open hyperlinks or attachments in any emails that are suspicious.
Even when they appear to come from a friend or coworker, use extreme caution – their email address might have been compromised by someone trying to attack you.
When in doubt, call the person or company directly to check first – and do so using an official number, never the phone number listed in the email.
– Arun Vishwanath, Associate Professor of Communication, University at Buffalo, State University of New York