Many types of malicious, disruptive or annoying cyberattacks could be launching from your home or office computer without your knowledge. All it takes is for a cybercriminal to get some hostile code into your trusted laptop, desktop or tablet to turn it into a zombie computer. Malicious software that makes its way onto your computer can then forcibly enlist your desktop or mobile device into an army of zombie computers. The overall objective is to use your machine — along with the others forcibly recruited into your zombie regimen — to regenerate and transmit phishing emails, spam and various types of malware. Although your computer may appear to be perfectly normal, it’s performing the work of a cybercriminal behind the scenes.

A Bot Can Turn Your Computer Into A Zombie

Your computer can be turned into a zombie by malware or a virus getting into your computer and planting a bot. When the bot is activated, it can issue commands to your computer originating from an outside source. The malware carrying the bot can arrive through the traditional hacker transmission channels of an email attachment, visit to a compromised website or an instant messaging application such as Skype.

A Botnet is Comprised of Thousands or Millions of Computers

The bot issuing commands on an infected computer can instruct your machine to act in tandem with thousands, perhaps millions, of other zombie computers to form a botnet. The cybercriminal controlling the botnet from a remote location, who is sometimes called a bot herder, can instruct his legions of zombie computers to send millions of spam or email transmissions that can infect other computers, overwhelm networks and crash websites. It can take no more than one keystroke for a bot herder to set all this in motion.

Botnets Launch Crippling DDoS Attacks

As part of a botnet, your zombie computer could play a role in a major and crippling DDoS attack. A distributed denial-of-service attack occurs when enough zombie computers are instructed to go to a particular website at the same time. This can easily render the site unusable. A DDoS attack is a quick and effective way to shut down a website or an entire network. Several major websites, including eBay and Yahoo, were brought to a standstill in 2000 by a DDoS attack initiated by a Canadian teenager.

What You Can Do To Help Prevent Your Computer From Becoming a Zombie

Zombie computers and botnets have become a serious problem. They have helped to make the Internet a less safe place to do business and communicate. If your computer is pulled into a botnet, you’ve unknowingly become part of the problem. The first line of defense against a bot taking over your computer is to install the best possible anti-malware, antivirus and firewall software. Be sure to keep it up-to-date. A dependable and all-inclusive Internet security program will detect and remove bots before they can activate and turn your computer into a zombie machine.