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Last Updated: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 > Related Articles
Learn about bots and botnets and how they play into cyber crime.
A botnet is a network of infected computer systems which are under the control of someone else, other than the intended users. Typically, the “someone else” is a criminal or group of criminals who are exploiting the compromised systems for fraudulent activity and / or financial gain. Botnets are used to conduct all sorts of other criminal activities, from making online purchases with stolen credit cards to illegal online wire transfers.
One of the more common ways bots are used is to send spam and phishing scam emails. These emails are sent anonymously from the infected computers, to thousands or more recipients at a time. This typically happens while the user is away from their PC. Much of the unsolicited email you have received probably came from a bot running on someone else’s infected computer.
Today, it can be very difficult to detect the malicious software behind all of this. The processes are usually hidden and come online only after the system has been idle for a while. However, if your Internet Service Provider contacts you about any type of spam, virus or suspicious activity coming from your IP Address, there is a very good chance that you are infected and your system is likely under the control of someone else.
There are a number of tools that you can download and run to clean the more common infections. However, not all malicious software can be detected or completely removed. If you have been advised that your system is likely infected with a virus, it is best to back up your important files and re-image your system.
Protection Against Botnets
Today, one of the best ways to keep yourself protected is to promptly update your Operating System, Security Software, Adobe Acrobat / Flash and Sun / Java software, as soon as updates are made available to you. Your system will notify you of these updates via small pop-ups on the lower-right-hand corner of your screen (Windows) or via a software update menu that opens, as soon as you login (Mac OS). You will never be notified of critical system updates via email, unless you have intentionally subscribed to receive these types of notifications from your software vendor. So, do not click on any links in emails or web browser pop-ups that claim to be for critical software updates.
There are other free malicious software scanner tools available, such as the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, which you can occasionally run, in addition to your current anti-virus.