The word botnet or bot is short for robot network.  A botnet is a group of Internet-connected personal computers that have been infected by a malicious applica­tion (malware) that allows a hacker to control the infected computers or mobile devices without the knowledge of the device owners. When malware is launched on your computer or mobile device, it “recruits” your infected device into a botnet, and the hacker is now able to remotely control your device and access all the data on your device.

A botnet can consist of as few as ten computers, or tens or hundreds of thousands. Millions of personal computers are potentially part of bot­nets. Computers that aren’t properly secured are at risk of being turned into bots, or zombies.

Consumers’ and small businesses’ relaxed security practices give scammers a base from which to launch attacks, by allowing them to create botnets without being detected. Hackers use bot­nets to send spam and phishing emails and to deliver viruses and other malware and thus make money.

To stay protected, you should:

  • Don’t click on links from people you don’t know
  • Be cautious downloading content from peer-to-peer sites
  • Be wary of free downloads (is it really free?)
  • Keep your operating system and browser updated
  • Make sure you have updated security software for all your devices, like McAfee All Access