Bot malware growing as a threat

The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and with it come challenges. One such challenge that’s making headlines is bot malware. As bot malware grows as a threat for all tech users, it’s important for businesses to arm themselves with knowledge and a real understanding and plan for how to keep safe and secure.

Let’s delve into the what, why, and how of this cyber threat and arm your SME with the knowledge to tackle it head-on.

Understanding Bot Malware

What is bot malware?

In simple terms, bot malware is a software designed to infect and control your computer system without your knowledge.

Bot malware, often simply termed as “bots”, represents malicious software designed to covertly infiltrate and take control of a computer system. Once embedded, these bots can act autonomously, often forming part of a larger network known as a ‘botnet‘. This network, under the command of remote cybercriminals, can carry out a variety of nefarious tasks, ranging from data theft to launching coordinated cyberattacks. The insidious nature of bot malware lies in its ability to operate undetected, allowing it to harness the infected system’s resources without the user’s knowledge.

Why are bots harmful?

Bots are harmful because they can secretly take control of a computer without the user’s knowledge. Once in control, they can steal personal or client information, misuse the computer’s resources causing your computer to run slowly or even crash, or  damage the system permanently. They can also connect the infected computer to a larger group of compromised devices, further amplifying the harm by conducting large-scale cyberattacks or spreading malware.

This not only jeopardises the individual computer but can pose a broader threat to other systems and networks it interacts with (that means your whole organisation, including those with spending power or high security requirements).

Why do bot attacks happen?

Bot attacks happen primarily for financial gain or to gain a strategic advantage. Cybercriminals deploy bots to infiltrate computers and networks to steal sensitive data, which can then be sold or used for fraudulent activities.

Additionally, by taking control of multiple devices, attackers can harness their combined resources to launch larger-scale attacks on businesses or critical infrastructure. Sometimes, they also aim to disrupt services or tarnish an organisation’s reputation but the driving factor is often the potential for profit, power, or disruption.

Example of a Malware Bot

A well-known example of a malware bot is the “Conficker” worm. First detected in 2008, Conficker rapidly spread across computers worldwide. Once it infected a machine, the worm turned that computer into a ‘bot’ that could be remotely controlled by the attacker.

This collection of compromised computers, also known as a botnet, was then used for various malicious purposes, such as sending out vast amounts of spam or launching denial-of-service attacks on websites. The danger of Conficker was its ability to spread quickly and take control of large numbers of computers without the users’ knowledge.

Guarding Against Bot Threats: Actionable Steps for SMEs

1. Employee Training Empower your team with the knowledge to spot and avoid suspicious online activities. Human error risks are not limited to your office technophobes, in fact some sophisticated scams can catch out experienced computer users so it’s vital for the whole team to be vigilant.

2. Keep Software Updated Ensure all systems and software are regularly updated to patch any vulnerabilities. Patching is just a techy word for adding new solutions to new problems, a bit like patching a whole in your garden fence.

3. Invest in Anti-malware Opt for reputable anti-malware software to provide a strong defence against threats. You may already be familiar with some household names of antivirus companies, AVG, Norton, McAfee and for home use, you may only need the free versions. Antivirus complements antimalware, and for business you should have a paid solution for both. If you’re a bit lost on where to start, give Clearsky a call.

4. Backup Data Regular data backups ensure that in the event of an attack, your essential files remain accessible. We talked more about this a few weeks ago, and we’ll keep banging on about it until all businesses have a preventative backup solution in place!

5. Limit User Access Restrict administrative rights only to necessary personnel to minimise potential entry points for malware. That means no sharing passwords, good data hygiene and a tight procedure for employee turnover.

6. Stay Updated Keep an eye on the latest security trends to be proactive against new threats. Security trends a little yawn-worthy for your liking? Luckily for you, it’s what we eat for breakfast every day, alongside our cornflakes.

7. Consult the Experts When unsure, consulting experts like Clearsky IT can provide effective, tailored solutions for your unique business needs.

To Wrap It Up…

While bot malware poses a significant threat but understanding and proactive measures can help to keep your SME secure. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and seek expert guidance when needed.

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