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As we explored on our last post covering common cyber threats in 2021, there is a growing bank of cyber threats, and it’s vital that business owners are aware of all the latest risks faced, including hidden ones. Two such threats are rootkits and botnets. Let’s take a look at what these are, and how they could be putting your organisation’s cyber security under threat without you even knowing about it.
A rootkit is a piece of software that can be installed and hidden away on your device without you knowing. It may be included in a larger software package, or installed by a cyber-criminal who has found their way into your system, or has convinced you to download it via a phishing attack or social engineering.
Rootkits are not malicious in themselves, but they may cover up malicious activities, allowing attackers to access information on your device, modify programs, monitor your activity or perform other functions on your device without your knowledge.
A botnet comes from the term, ‘bot network’. A bot is an automated computer program. Attackers will gain access to a device or network by infecting it with a virus or other malicious code. Your device may form part of a botnet even though it appears to be functioning normally. Botnets are often used to carry out a variety of activities, including the distribution of viruses and spam and denial of service attacks.
The key issue with rootkits and botnets is that they are hidden, so you will usually have no idea that they are causing havoc behind the scenes. Botnets aren’t hidden in the same sense of the word as rootkits, but nevertheless, they still operate undetected.
Rootkits may not even be detected by traditional anti-virus software, and attackers are coming up with more and more sophisticated programs that update themselves so that they become even more difficult to detect.
Attackers can use rootkits and botnets to access and modify personal information; to attack other systems and to commit crimes, all the whole remaining undetected. By employing multiple devices, attackers can increase the range and impact of their crimes.
Due to the fact that every device involved in a botnet can be programmed to carry out the same command, an attacker can have each of them scanning a whole host of computers for vulnerabilities, monitoring online activity or harvesting the information that’s been input into online forms.
There are various ways in which you can protect your organisation and its data against the threats posed by rootkits and botnets:
Make use of antivirus software – this will protect your system against most known viruses, allowing you to remove them before they’ve had the chance to do any damage. Also look for anti-rootkit software which is designed to specifically identify and deal with rootkits.
Install a firewall – firewalls can prevent selected types of cyber threats by blocking malicious traffic before it can infect your device. If your device comes with a firewall, ensure it is activated.
Adopt good password habits – use passwords that are complex so that attackers won’t be able to guess them, and use different passwords for different programs and devices. Avoid auto-saving passwords unless you are using a secure system to do so. You can find more comprehensive advice on password security in our keeping passwords safe guide. It is also wise to use multi-factor authentication as an additional layer of online login security.
Keep software updated – never ignore updates as many of them will include security patches that will protect against the latest cyber threats. Set your system to automatically install updates so that you never miss them.
Be cyber-security savvy – follow good cyber-security practice and ensure you have policies and procedures in place so that every member of your organisation is following the same process and everyone is fully aware of the latest threats.
If your system has already been attacked by a rootkit, or a cyber-criminal is using your device in a botnet, you may not be aware, and it could be difficult to recover. Files on your computer may have been modified, so you will need expert intervention to put everything right.
Here at PC Docs, we provide a comprehensive range of cyber security solutions, all of which can be customised to suit your individual business needs and cyber risk assessment.
We offer a variety of services, including anti-malware and adware systems, firewall and antivirus setup and management, internet and spam filters and email scanning software, plus expert advice on good cyber security practice.
To discover how we can assist your organisation in staying safe against all the latest cyber threats, including the hidden ones such as rootkits and botnets, you are welcome to get in touch.