What is a Botnet?
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What is a ‘Botnet’?

by Brett M. Christensen

Question From Reader:

I’ve read that malware can ‘join my computer to a botnet’. But what exactly is a botnet? 


The term botnet is derived from two other words, ‘bot’, which is short for ‘robot’ and ‘net’, which is short for network.

botnet describes a group of computers that has been connected via malware infections in such a way that a criminal can collectively control them from afar. Botnets are used to carry out various malicious tasks such as sending spam, launching phishing attacks, and distributing further malware. The controlling criminal is often referred to as the ‘botmaster’.

A computer that becomes part of a botnet is said to be a ‘zombie’ or ‘robot’ because the computer is under the control of criminals. Botnets are sometimes called ‘zombie armies’.  Botnets can consist of hundreds of thousands – even millions – of infected computers.

By using such an ‘army’ of infected computers, online criminals can distribute vast numbers of spam, scam and malware messages. And, these messages will trace back to the infected computers rather than to the criminals responsible for the attacks.

Typically, a computer becomes part of a botnet after the computer’s user is tricked into installing an initial malware component by clicking a link that opens a compromised website or opening an attached file.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,