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Botnets explained: Those smart devices at home could turn hackers’ friends

Did you know that your smart refrigerator at home could be your worst enemy even your smart TV? Saket Modi, CEO of Lucideus Tech, explains what botnets are and how they are used by hackers to either steal data or use the smart device as a processing resource.

tech Updated: Feb 23, 2017 11:47 IST
Anirban Ghoshal
Botnet

Did you know that your smart refrigerator at home could be your worst enemy even your smart TV? Saket Modi, CEO of Lucideus Tech, explains what botnets are and how they are used by hackers to either steal data or use the smart device as a processing resource.

The ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) has launched the largest botware and malware analysis monitoring system in the world in a bid to strengthen the cybersecurity of the country.

The country has very recently seen attacks from a hacker group Legion as well as infections in different banks via ATMs. Hence, the malware and bot analysis monitoring system was a necessity.

Called Cyber Swachhata Kendra and launched by the domestic computer emergency response team (CERT), the centre not only monitors bots in the country’s internet network but also provides free tools (from QuickHeal) to help users clean their infected devices.

But what are these bots? Saket Modi, CEO of Lucideus Tech, explained to Hindustan Times what these infected programmes are and how they can get into one of your devices and use it for different nefarious activities.

What is a botnet?

If you divide the word into two then botnet is a combination of robots and something which is on the Internet, so that’s bots over the Internet.

Now let’s understand what is the meaning of these two things coming together. First of all, when you talk about robots, you are are fundamentally talking about something that is automated and when you intelligently put something automated on the Internet to do anything, it can be a botnet by definition. Today most botnets range from IoT devices like Smart TV, smart refrigerator till the mobile phone itself.

Have there been any recent attacks in history?

The very recent botnet attack that I would like to bring in to focus out here was the MIRAI attack that happened using which Amazon, Twitter, CNN, NYT’s websites were hacked, they were down because the attack happened on the DNS server and the interesting part was that the entire attack only used 20% of the total botnet strength/network that was there. The reason why I mentioned this is, it speaks volume about the strength of such attacks, imagine what would have happened if the 100% strength would have been used.

Still not clear?

It fundamentally is a program which is automated and is running on a computing device which in today’s age can be any IoT/smart device and that is automatically in the control of a hacker. The hacker in his command and control centre can activate that particular script which will be used at a particular point using which it is then possible to further cause an attack.

The popular attacks that happen these days using botnets are something called the Distributed Detail of Service (Ddos) attack. The meaning of Ddos attack is there are multiple IP addresses or multiple of these bots which are planted at different locations/countries attacking. Another very important utility of botnet which is happening right now is usage of those “pond machines” (which are used as botnets) to mine crypto-currency. There are suddenly these genres of hacker who want to hack into personal devices no longer for your intimate pictures, banking information, he only wants to use your processing power of the device to mine bitcoins or any other crypto-currency which is actually is of very high value.

But what is the importance of the malware, botnet monitoring system?

So botnet is really becoming a menace across the globe right now and today there are only 4 countries which have their own botnet detecting and suggesting centre for their organization. The launch of Cyber Swachhta Kendra and at this scale is a great move. Let’s not forget that we are a country of huge size, more than 250 million smartphones being used, and of-course the number of people on the Internet which is almost half a billion people, considering all of this, the launch of Cyber Swachhta Kendra is the largest ever botnet cleaning centre which was not there in the past and this is something all Indians should be proud of. Considering the budget allocation and the focus on cybersecurity, the strategy is ver clear. I feel it is a tremendous step taken and it will globally be replicated by different countries in the near future.

The new tools from the botnet centre can be downloaded from here. Other tools such as USB Pratirodh, AppSamvid and MKavach are also available for free to download and clear your system of botnets. While AppSamvid, which works on Windows PCs, allows only pre-approved apps or files to execute and blacklists all viruses, USB Pratirodh controls unauthorized usage of portable USBs.

MKavach, which is targeted at mobile device security for Android devices, addresses threats related to misuse of WiFi, Bluetooth and camera. All the solutions are available free of charge.