A … botnet?

IE Focus | By Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School 

You may not know this, but your computer could have a secret life of its own. It may form part of a network that takes advantage of chinks in your computer’s security system to commit fraud. Such a network is called a botnet.The news of the recent arrest of three Spanish citizens responsible for the “Butterfly Network”, described as one of the largest botnets in the world, was received with great interest by Spain’s technology sector. But exactly what is a botnet and what is it used for? What is a zombie computer? What are we talking about?

A botnet, or “robot network”, is a group of computers which, after being infected by a specific person or group, remain under his or its control and can be used for fraudulent purposes. The owners of the computers are usually unaware of the infection and do not know that their machine is being used, together with many more, for some type of generally criminal purpose. The person who manages to control a botnet has many options on the table: collecting sensitive user data, launching distributed denial-of-service attacks and even ordering the computers to click on websites with advertising contracted by a third party. The possibilities are manifold: the botmaster has an army of computers ready to execute a certain command at his/her will, with the profit resulting from any fraudulent behaviour being very difficult to identify as a result of the distribution.