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About Botnets

Last Updated: Tue, 15 Sep 2015 > Related Articles

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Learn about bots and botnets, and how they affect cyber crime.


A botnet is a network of infected computer systems which are under the control of criminals. Typically, the compromised systems are used for fraudulent activity.

Botnets are commonly used to send spam and phishing scam emails. These emails are sent anonymously from the infected computers to thousands or more recipients at a time. This typically happens while the user is away from their computer. Much of the unsolicited email you receive probably comes from a bot running on an infected computer. For more information on managing spam, refer to the Spam Resource Center.

Detecting Botnets

Today, it can be very difficult to detect the malicious software behind all of this. The processes are usually hidden until they detect that the system has been idle for a while.

There are a number of tools that you can download and run to remove the more common infections. However, not all malicious software can be detected or completely removed. If you have been advised that your system is likely infected with a virus, it is best to back up your important files and re-image your system.

Protection Against Botnets

Today, one of the best ways to keep yourself protected is to promptly update your operating system, security software, Adobe Acrobat / Flash, and Sun / Java software as soon as updates are available. Update notifications display in the following ways.

  • Windows users access the small pop-ups on the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Mac users see a software update menu open after logging in.

You will never be notified of critical system updates via email, unless you have intentionally subscribed to receive these types of notifications from your software vendor. Also, do not click on links in email or web browser pop-ups claiming to be critical software updates. There are free malicious software scanner tools available, such as the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, which you can run in addition to your current anti-virus.

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