Botnets are large networks of hijacked devices (robots) that can be remotely controlled by their creator.
Who is at risk from botnets?
The primary victims of botnets are outdated computers humming away in forgotten corners of business parks and schools, as well as poorly secured Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
When a computer no longer receives updates but is still connected tothe internet, it becomes vulnerable as more and more unpatched securityvulnerabilities are discovered. These vulnerabilities might allowsomebody to seize control of the machine remotely and command it toperform any task as if it were their server.
Any computer or device that is unused for long periods could beconsuming a lot of bandwidth, processing power, or otherwise behavingoddly without the owner’s knowledge. Similarly, devices that run in thebackground (like surveillance cameras, smart fridges or thermostats)might pick up unnoticed security flaws.
Botnets and the Internet of Things
IoT devices often come with weak passwords and login credentials bydefault. Poor security practices at manufacturers and strong pressurefor cheaper devices have exacerbated this.
It is unclear just how unprotected people’s homes might be. One idea to find out, brought forward by the Japanese government, is to allow the authorities to use default login passwords to “hack”into unattended devices and survey their prevalence and potential harm.
Another idea, going even further, is to hack into vulnerable devicesto either secure them from the inside or brick them to make themuseless.
The idea of law enforcement accessing people’s private digitalproperty is a controversial one, but not all proposals are similar. Anargument can be made that leaving your devices in their default,unsecure state is like leaving them unlocked.
To use a real-world comparison: Would it be permissible for thepolice to walk around a parking lot checking for unlocked cars? Would it be acceptable if these officers were also to lock the doors ofunsecured vehicles to limit the risk of theft to their owners?
How to prevent botnet attacks on your devices
Whatever devices you may have, you should always change their default passwords and check what options you might have to secure them.Ideally, your devices aren’t reachable from the open internet at all.
In the long run, however, it can only be the manufacturers that build devices secure by default, and consumers should demand better privacy and security.
Credit: Express VPN