How will a botnet attack affect your website and business? Is botnet the same as a bot? How can we protect our website and infrastructure from botnet attacks?
In this guide, we will answer those questions (and more) to help you understand all you need to know about preventing botnet attacks from negatively affecting your business.
Without further ado, let us begin by discussing the definition of botnet and botnet attack.
What Is a Botnet Attack?
It’s very important to note that the term botnet is not similar to ‘bot’ or ‘internet bot’, although the terms are often used interchangeably.
A bot is a software or computer program that is programmed to automatically perform certain tasks over the internet. For example, a bot can be programmed to extract data from a website, and these bots can be good or malicious depending on the owner or operator.
A botnet, on the other hand, refers to a group of devices or machines that are under the control of hackers or cybercriminals, mainly after they have been infected by malware or even malicious bots. Hackers can then use these botnet devices to attack other devices, for example, to launch a massive DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack.
We call these attacks, botnet attacks.
Since, botnets are technically legitimate devices, detecting their presence and activities can be much more challenging. Also, it’s quite often that the victim (the actual owner of the botnet device) isn’t aware that their device has been infected.
This is why preventing botnet attacks can be very challenging.
How does a Device turn Into a Botnet?
Although attackers can use various means to infect a machine and convert it into a botnet, we can generally divide the methods into two major categories: active and passive.
Active botnet spreading methods work without needing the intervention of human users. In this case, when a device has been infected by bot malware, it now has a mechanism to find potential victims on the internet. For example, the bot malware can scan for websites and hosts that have vulnerabilities that can be exploited
Passive botnet spreading techniques require some form of human intervention. For example, the human user must click on an attachment or run a program before their device can be infected. Attackers can use various forms of phishing and other types of social engineering attacks for this purpose.
How To Prevent Botnet Attacks Effectively
As discussed, botnet attacks can be very difficult to prevent and protect against, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to fight them.
Below are some effective ways you can try to protect your website and system from botnet attacks:
1. Keep everything up-to-date
A very important best practice to follow is to keep your software and applications (especially your OS) up-to-date. Updates are there for a reason: software manufacturers are releasing security updates to patch known security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malware and botnet attacks.
You wouldn’t want to find out your device being turned into a botnet or your whole system suffered from a botnet attack just because you neglected updating one of your applications.
As a general rule of thumb, update everything as soon as patches are available.
2. Implementing an endpoint botnet management solution
The most effective way to prevent botnet attacks and protect your infrastructure is to invest in a proper botnet detection solution. It’s very important for the botnet management solution to be able to stop threats at both HTTP/HTTPS and DNS levels.
When investing in a botnet detection solution, it’s important to remember that a bot management solution is notnecessarily a botnet management solution, as they are two different things. There are solutions that offer protection against botnets, like DataDome.
Datadome works in autopilot and requires no intervention and management on your end. Just configure DataDome according to your preference, and it will detect the presence of both botnets and malicious bots, and manage this traffic accordingly.
3. Use adequate firewall
Your firewall is your first line of defense against botnets. While it’s not 100% perfect against various types of bots and botnets, it’s still very important to deploy an adequate firewall solution and configure it properly.
You can configure the URL filtering in your firewall to block botnets that are using HTTP and HTTPS traffic, and DNS sinkholing will monitor UDP DNS requests passing through the firewall and block clients that are suspected as botnets accordingly.
4. Train and educate your team
Since, as discussed above, a common tactic employed by hackers is to use social engineering methods to infect devices and launch botnet attacks, your organization’s security is only as strong as your least knowledgeable employee.
Thus, it’s very important to conduct regular cybersecurity awareness training in your organization. Make cybersecurity training mandatory when onboarding new employees, and conduct regular refresher courses to keep them up-to-date with the latest trends surrounding botnet attacks and cybersecurity threats in general.
Botnet attacks are now a global problem, your device can be infected when visiting websites hosted in a server halfway across the world, and at the same time, you may suffer a botnet attack from a botnet device located in another country. Botnet attack detection is a serious and challenging issue.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that can 100% protect your website and business from botnet attacks, using an advanced botnet management solution like DataDome is the most effective option we have at the moment that can help our website block access from web scraping bots almost completely.