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Bad bots on the rise: A look at mobile, social, porn, and spam bots.

David Geer | May 2, 2014
Bad bots create untold security nightmares for the enterprise. Today, we're taking a look at the trouble they lead to, and what companies can do about it.

Bot Threats
Mobile bots hide under the device's operating system, sending premium text messages in secret. The associated messaging services end up costing the user thousands in phone bills.

"There's no way to see that you've been sending these texts until you get your phone bill," says Henderson.

Other mobile bots quietly collect user data, sending it back to the hacker. "These bots can send the entire phone book, the contents of your text messages, and anything you type in," Henderson adds.

Still other mobile bots intercept and replace Internet-based ads with malicious forgeries. The intent is to get users to click on a bogus ad and attempt to make a purchase, according to Henderson, so the hacker can steal credit card data.

Social bots use social engineering, taking control of Facebook or Twitter user accounts and sending posts, tweets, and messages that appear to come from the user to everyone in the contact list.

People are likely to trust and click the associated links, making social bots attractive for delivering viruses, malware, and phishing attacks that collect account information. Hackers profit through ID theft and most any scheme that uses social engineering.

Porn bots generate income through a bait and switch, up-selling approach. Users who believe they are paying to communicate with someone local, receive access to premium adult content instead. Porn bots expose the enterprise to potentially damaging content such as child pornography, which causes legal entanglements, according to James Brown, Chief Experience Officer for JumpCloud

Spam bots leave people with faulty merchandise and all sorts of link-based, secretly insinuated malware from ransomware to rootkits.

Solutions for the Enterprise
These bottom-feeding Internet robots are responsible for a variety of enterprise losses including brand damage and lost revenues from unsatisfactory, counterfeit products. Bots increase the impact of malware, and social engineering through the sheer number of people they can reach almost instantaneously.

Through drive-by threats, bundled malware, and secretly-manifested financial charges, bad bots increase the financial gains of gangsters and hackers in attacks that frustrate consumers and enterprise employees.

Enterprises should monitor network traffic for all uncharacteristic, unexpected, and suspicious network behavior. In particular, traffic leaving servers for anomalous locations such as countries where the enterprise does not do business or to an Internet address that a server does not typically contact should raise red flags, according to Brown.

"Deploy intrusion detection and prevention systems preventing unauthorized outbound connections through corporate firewalls. Ensure that you roll out anti-virus software on all servers," says Brown. Block future outbound connections to complicity IP addresses. Reimage infected servers entirely.

With the BYOD craze comes a balancing act between corporate security and employee usability. The organization should develop a thorough BYOD strategy in response. Saying no to BYOD is no longer an option.

 

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