How Hard Is It to Build a Botnet?

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While working on Radware’s Ultimate Guide to Bot Management, I began wondering what would it take to build a botnet.

Would I have to dive into the Darknet and find criminal hackers and marketplaces to obtain the tools to make one? How much effort would it take to build a complicated system that would avoid detection and mitigation, and what level of expertise is required to make a scraping/credential stuffing and website abuse botnet?

At Your Fingertips

What I discovered was amazing. I didn’t even need to dive into the Darknet; everything anyone would need was readily available on the public internet. 

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My learning didn’t end there. During this exploration, I noticed that many organizations use botnets in one form or another against their competitors or to gain a competitive advantage. Of course, I knew hackers leverage botnets for profit; but the availability of botnet building tools makes it easy for anyone to construct botnets that can access web interfaces and APIs while disguising their location and user agents. 

The use cases being advertised from these toolsets range from data harvesting, to account creation and account takeover, to inventory manipulation capabilities, advertising fraud and a variety of ways to monetize and automate integrations into well known systems for IT.  

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Mobile Phone Farms

These tools designers and services clearly know there is a market for cyber criminality, and some are shameless about promoting it.

For example, per a recent Vice article examining mobile phone farms, companies are incentivizing traffic to their apps and content by paying users. Indeed, it appears that people can make anywhere from $100-300 a month per mobile phone on apps like perk TV, Fusion TV, MyPoints or even categorizing shows for Netflix. They merely have to take surveys, watch television shows, categorize content or check into establishments.

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More specifically, people are building mobile phone farms with cheap android devices and used phones, and scale up their operations to a point where they can make a couple of thousands of dollars (or more!) per month. These farms can be rented out to conduct more nefarious activities, like price scraping, data harvesting, ticket purchasing, account takeover, fake article writing and social media development, hacking, launching launching DDoS attacks and more.  To complicate matters, thanks to proxy servers and VPN tools, it has become nearly impossible to detect if a phone farm is being used against a site.  

What’s Next?

It’s not a far leap to assume that incentivized engagement may very well invite people to build botnets. How long until somebody develops an app to “rent your phone’s spare cycles” to scrape data, or watch content, write reviews, etc. (in other words, things that aren’t completely against the law) for money? Would people sign up to make extra beer money in exchange for allowing botnet operators to click on ads and look at websites for data harvesting?

I think it’s just a matter of time before this idea takes flight. Are you prepared today to protect against the sophisticated botnets? Do you have a dedicated bot management solution? When the botnets evolve into the next generation, will you be ready?

Read “The Ultimate Guide to Bot Management” to learn more.

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