Botnets can be beaten

Johannesburg, 08 May 2008

The war against botnets can be won, although no security system in the world is 100% foolproof, says Renaud Bidaou, senior security specialist for Radware.

He addressed ITWeb Security Summit 2008, in Midrand, this week.

Botnets refer to networks of "bots" or "zombies" - computers that have been compromised and are being remotely controlled by a malicious third-party.

Bidaou said botnet ecosystems have taken off in a big way since 2005, when malware had developed to the point that people were "turning technology into money".

"A new actor came on the scene, which was organised crime, which is big money."

He explained that botnets make money in a number of ways. They can spam people and impact stock values, or steal people's credentials through phishing. Nigerian 419 scams are also promulgated through botnets, which also enable on-demand hacking.

Botnets can be rented out for spam campaigns featuring pop-up advertising, or the distribution of malware.

However, Bidaou said there are things that can be done to combat the scourge.

These include interventions such as imposing harsher fines on those found guilty of botnet-related activities. Also, IT-specific interventions can be made, such as repressing spam and intrusions.

Education, according to Bidaou, also plays a central role, with computer users needing to learn to use technology wisely, and regularly update and patch software.

"With all these things being done together, we can easily win the war," insisted Bidaou. However, he acceded that "no one has an all-in-one solution".

According to him, "complete security is not realistic, but secure behaviour is becoming usual".

"Most effects [of botnet ecosystems] can be mitigated and botnet resources can be exhausted."