Stay Safe Series: Botnets – A Forward-Marching Zombie Army

online business security

In the third installment of our Stay Safe Series, today’s Volusion blog post discusses and defines botnets – you’ll learn what they are and how they operate. Additionally, we’ll identify the implications to the security of your online business’ data and how to protect yourself.

Have you ever seen the classic horror flick, “Night of the Living Dead?” If so, let me know how it is because zombies terrify me. This is why I’m particularly uneasy discussing today’s topic, botnets. (The term “botnet” is a combination of two words, “robot” and “network.”)

PC Magazine defines a botnet as a large number of infected computers used to send spam and viruses around other networks. A botnet is also referred to as a “zombie army.” This is because the ringleader of this nefarious network takes over an infected computer and operates it without your knowledge, ultimately turning your computer into a zombie.

So how is this army sent to battle? Here’s how it works. First, a trojan horse is installed on your computer after you open an attachment or download a file. Then, the malware disguised by the trojan horse opens an Internet Relay Chat, or IRC. This portal allows the “botmaster” to take control of your machine. As the malware spreads to other computers, the botnet gains more strength.

Once the botnet is forceful enough to cause damage, the controller can begin sending out huge amounts of spam emails and files. And if the botnot continues to grow, it can send a massive number of requests to an unsuspecting network. This flood of messages can cripple the attacked network, making the resources completely unavailable to its intended users. This is known as a Denial of Service attack, or DoS. This type of malicious scheme is constantly taking place – take a look at the latest story here.

How do these zombie armies affect you and your online store? Consider the following:

  • Once infected, your computer’s functions are considerably slowed.
  • Your digital documents and passwords are highly vulnerable, leading to potential identity theft.
  • The malware can install “keystroke loggers” to capture your personal information and sensitive data.
  • The structure makes it appear that the botnet’s illegal actions come from your machine.

But never fear, whatever kills zombies can be applied to wipe out these virtual armies. But just to reinforce the recurring theme of this entire week, prevention is huge for protection. Use common sense tactics like making sure not to open email attachments from unknown senders. It’s also important to install a firewall and use your browser’s pop-up blocker.

Wondering if you’re infected? Take a look at the major warning signs here.

Now that you’re aware of the danger, make sure you’re prepped. We’ll continue the conversation tomorrow!

Happy (and safe) Selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate

What do you think about botnets? Do you have any additional information to add? Any questions? Have you ever been a victim of a botnet attack? Do you have any advice on keeping yourself and others safe? Share your thoughts below!


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

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