According to the director of the cyber division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), botnet operations are infecting 18 computers every second.
Botnets are a group of computers and servers comprised with malware that are interlinked into a tight nit group controlled by one individual or cybercriminal group. Botnets have become increasingly common over the past several years and are being considered one of the biggest threats to the Internet today.
Cybercriminals who hold botnets can be extremely powerful, and botnets can be considered a cyber weapon. Botnet farmers can carry out massive cyber-crime operations such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, bitcoin mining operations, mass spam campaigns, abuse pagerank and manipulate computers advertisement display for their own finical gain. Not only can botnets carry out extremely malicious attacks, they can also covertly aid cyber espionage and surveillance acts among other nefarious activities.
Director in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Cyber Division, Joseph Demarest, said botnet has become one of the largest enemies of the Internet today, and therefore its impact has been significant. Demarest testified before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday about cyber criminal threats and said that every second, 18 computers around the world are infecting becoming part of a botnet, which amounts to over 500 million computers a year (exactly 567,648,000).
The network of comprised machines can aid severe cyber crime activities without the knowledge of the systems owner. Botnets are notorious for harvesting machines finical data, which includes users bank accounts and credit card numbers. Not only do botnets harvest its users data, they are also used to shutdown websites and can even spy on users via screen capture or stealing audio and video through built in or attached hardware, such could be an aggressive risk for businesses, governments, among other high profile institutions.
The United States Senate subcommittee met on Tuesday to discuss the FBI’s progress in their current anti-cyber crime operation and strategy named: “Taking Down Botnets: Public and Private Efforts to Disrupt and dismantle Cyber Criminal Networks.”
Demrest remarked how the news (18 infections per second) is troubling as botnets high infection rate costs the United States and global economists billions of dollars. Even with successful takedowns he notes “our work is never done.”
“The use of botnets is on the rise. Industry experts estimate that botnets attacks have resulted in the overall loss of millions of dollars from financial institutions and other major U.S. businesses,” Demarest said in his testimony.
“As you well know, we face cyber threats from state-sponsored hackers, hackers for hire, organized cyber syndicates, and terrorists. They seek our state secrets, our trade secrets, our technology, and our ideas—things of incredible value to all of us. They may seek to strike our critical infrastructure and our economy.”
In public eye the FBI is moving forward in taking down botnet networks, but researchers speculate the role of the NSA in the FBI’s operations. Ex NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed that the NSA already has networks of ‘pre’-compromised machines and is using them for their own intention.
Last year a Dutch newspaper reported that leaked Sowden documents disclosed that the NSA had a network of ‘sleeper cells’, which are implants that give the NSA remote access over a computer with the push of a button, literally.
Researchers report that as one side gears to towards taking down botnet operations, the other agency suites up botnet-like operations. It appears stability on both sides is either unknown or disclosed privately within the agencies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation along with Europol recently had a huge bust in the take-down of the Gameover Zeus botnet that reaped more than $100 million from banks, businesses, and personal consumers around the world.