In today’s digital age, where our lives are increasingly intertwined with technology, ensuring the security of our online accounts is of utmost importance. However, a growing concern looms over us: the ever-evolving threat posed by botnets. These malicious networks of compromised computers have the ability to infiltrate systems, steal sensitive data, and wreak havoc on individuals, businesses, and even nations. One of the most valuable assets these botnets pursue is our credentials – usernames, passwords, and other personal information that grant access to our online identities. In this blog post, we delve into the alarming reality of how many credentials a botnet can steal and the implications it holds for our digital security.
Botnet infostealers are malicious software programs designed to infect and compromise computers and cell phones, allowing cybercriminals to remotely access and extract valuable data, particularly login credentials. These stealthy programs often lurk undetected within compromised systems, silently harvesting usernames, passwords, credit card details, and other personal information without the victim’s knowledge. This stolen data is then sold on the dark web, fueling illicit activities such as identity theft, financial fraud, and unauthorized access to sensitive accounts.
Infostealer malware sneaks its way onto your computer in a number of ways—often times malicious code is embedded in software that promises to be a free security tool, pirated music, movies and software, embedded in what is meant to be a simple PDF or a number of unsuspecting methods. Often times, since this malware is embedded in software, during the installation process, the infostealer malware will prompt you to disable your anti-virus software so it can “properly install,” and unsuspecting users unfortunately fall victim to this ruse. Once on your computer, this malware can do quite a bit of harm:
Keylogging: Infostealers capture keystrokes made by the user, recording entered passwords and other sensitive information as the victim types.
Form Grabbing: These infostealers intercept data entered into web forms, extracting valuable details such as usernames, passwords, and credit card information.
Screen Capturing: Some infostealers take screenshots of the victim’s screen, capturing sensitive information displayed during online sessions.
Credential Theft: Infostealers target stored credentials, including login information saved in web browsers or password management tools as well as your browsers cookies. These cookies track your login sessions (so you don’t have to login every time you visit your favorite sites), and when stolen, they can be used to trick the website’s server loading the previously authenticated session for the hacker, bypassing any need to log in, and even bypassing any multifactor authentication.
The data infostealers capture is highly pervasive, as it can reach beyond the directly infected computer. Consider modern web browsers like Google Chrome that sync your data across all your devices. While this is convenient, it can mean that your saved login credentials from all of your devices could be captured by an infostealer. This is especially problematic if you’re logged in to Chrome on your work and home computer. Most business devices are secured with industry leading security software, and are locked down with corporate policies, making it less likely that the user can accidentally download an infected file. However, most users do not have as sophisticated security on their home machines, where they’re more likely to get infected, but since their browser is syncing their work credentials to their home computer, the possibility remains that your highly valuable work credentials can get snagged by botnet malware too.
The most staggering reality is that because these credentials are stolen directly from your machine, where you store your current passwords for convenience, a site does not need to get breached in order for a hacker to access your account, if you’ve been infected by infostealer malware. While credentials and sensitive personal data is frequently breached from various sites, many customers of large, “high value” sites take comfort in knowing these companies put tremendous effort into protecting their user data. For example, large tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon haven’t suffered any large scale breaches; same goes for large banks such as Band of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo and highly popular streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify and Hulu. However, if you’ve been infected by an infostealer, your credentials to these sites can be in the hands of Russian cyber criminals. Look at the example below of a real infostealer infection and the types of credentials exposed.
Botnet infostealers represent a hidden threat that can compromise the security of our most valuable credentials and personal information. Understanding their mechanisms and implementing robust security measures is crucial to safeguarding ourselves and our organizations from the devastating consequences of infostealer attacks. By staying vigilant, keeping software updated, and adopting best security practices, we can fortify our defenses and minimize the risk of falling victim to these stealthy adversaries.