Botnets, networks of compromised end-user computers and servers, are hugely sophisticated engines of computation and messaging these days – just like cloud computing. Botnet creators can now sell their criminal and fraudster clientele capabilities to do a variety of tasks, from trying to crack into banks to creating fake grassroots political campaigns.
The use of botnets for straightforward criminal activity is nothing new, of course. By marshaling the resources of hundreds of thousands of infected computers at any given time, botnet controllers can use sheer brute force to bring down relatively unprotected websites just be directing thousands of traffic requests per second. Or they can use such an event to mask a more surreptitious attack into a bank’s online data.