Botnets: Why Does Malware Exist?

An example of a botnet used for email spam

I get this question a lot from less technical users.  Why do people make computer viruses?  Well, to start, traditional “viruses” only account for a tiny fraction of malicious software infections.  A good catch-all term to use for malicious software is “malware”.  So, why does malware exist in the first place?  I have found that a lot of people just assume that malware is produced by devious hackers who have nothing better to do than mess people’s stuff up.  It’s often viewed by less technical users as little more than digital vandalism.  It is important to understand why malware is out there.  It does serve a very practical purpose to criminals (and government agencies).

In order to understand the root of the malware problem, a good place to start is with Botnets.  A botnet is a collection of compromised computers connected to the internet and maliciously networked together.  They are then used by the controlling criminal (or government agency) to direct cyber attacks on specific targets.  It helps to think of it like a farm of zombie computers that are controlled by malicious users to do their bidding for them.  This allows the attacker to have a lot more fire power than just one computer could provide.  It also allows the attacker to be masked behind this army of zombie computers and makes it more difficult to identify the guilty parties.

Some of the different attacks that botnets are used for are denial of service (DoS), Email Spamming, click fraud, fast flux attacks, brute force password attacks, online gambling fraud, and many more.  The flexibility and fire power that comes with a botnet makes them incredibly dangerous.

Botnets present a powerful reason for even the most technical users to protect their computers from malware.  Make sure that you have real time malware protection installed on your computer.  As always, the very best form of protection is to browse smart.  Don’t just click on every link that you find…there are a lot of dark alleys on the internet filled with software just waiting for you to become click happy!