Hacker Lexicon: Botnets, the Zombie Computer Armies That Earn Hackers Millions

ZOMBIE ARMIES AREN’T just invading movie screens these days. They’re also taking over the Internet in the form of massive botnets.

A botnet is an army of computers, all infected with the same malware, that gives a bot herder remote control of these computers in order to surreptitiously commandeer them without their owners’ knowledge. The bot herder can send instructions to the network of computers from a command-and-control server to siphon credit card numbers and banking credentials from them or use them to launch DDoS attacks against web sites, deliver spam and other malware to victims, or conduct advertising click fraud.

Botnets came up this month in a Senate Judiciary hearing with FBI Director James Comey. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has previously likened botnets to weeds that do “evil things,” asked Comey for his assessment of one of the Internet’s biggest scourges, and Comey replied that there was no such thing as a “good botnet.”


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