Hackers can use command and control assaults to take control of whole networks or transform individual computers into a bot army to do whatever they want. This was obvious recently when the United States stopped the “Cyclops Blink” botnet by hacking into compromised devices and uninstalling the virus, but here’s what you should know about them. C2 attacks can easily take control of entire networks and grant hackers access to a botnet army. Here’s how it works and what you can do to stay safe.
What Is a Command and Control Attack
When malicious actors breach a PC and download malware that allows them to remotely broadcast commands/queries from a C2 server to compromised devices, this is known as a command and control cyberattack (C2 or C&C for short). Because the first infected PC frequently infects any secondary devices with which it communicates, in the event of a Company’s network, a complete system might be brought under an attacker’s control in a matter of minutes.
There are numerous ways for attackers to infect a PC, as well as numerous kinds of attacks they might launch once within the system. More than 80% of viruses use the domain name system to find C2 servers to steal data and propagate malware, as described by cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks.
What Is C2 and How Does It Work?
The attacker must first infiltrate the target PC using malware. Social engineering techniques such as phishing emails, bogus adverts leading to dangerous websites, and dodgy browser plugins and programs can all be used to accomplish this. From COVID-19 to video games, these will frequently leverage current happenings or pop culture to pique people’s interests. In rare circumstances, attackers use a USB stick with malware to physically breach a system.
Once the command is transmitted, the infected PC transforms into a “bot,” a digital zombie controlled by the attacker. It subsequently spreads viruses to additional devices, converting them into bots and expanding the attacker’s control area, resulting in the creation of a botnet, or network of bots. Many C2 assaults, especially when stealing data, are developed to go undiscovered for as long as feasible. Other common uses of C2, as per Palo Alto Networks, include:
- Taking over other people’s computers to mine cryptocurrencies
- Data destruction
- Machines, possibly entire networks, are being turned off.
- To impair system functioning, compromised devices are rebooted remotely.
- C2 can also be used in ransomware attacks to encrypt data and hold systems captive.
The Structure of Command and Control Attacks
Attackers used to have a server under their control and would initiate the attack from there in the early days of the internet. Many C2 attacks are being launched from cloud-based services. An attacker may use a single server to which the malware will send a message for instructions. This can be readily prevented by detecting and blocking the C2 server’s IP address to prevent future connections. However, if an attacker hides their genuine IP address using proxies, protection becomes more difficult.
Scammers will frequently use many servers to launch an assault. It could be a set of servers performing the same attack for redundancy in case one goes down, or it could be a single server. Attackers can also command the botnet’s infected computers to function as a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, interacting with one another at random rather than through a central server. This makes tracing the source of the illness more difficult. This strategy is frequently employed in conjunction with a single-server attack, according to cybersecurity software company DNSFilter – if the server is knocked down, the P2P option is available as a backup.
Defending Against a C2 Attack
While the thought of someone else controlling your system is frightening, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
First and foremost, there is education. Cyber Attackers frequently use social engineering meme strategies, therefore teaching anybody who has access to your network about them. People are significantly less likely to be duped once they are aware of the warning indicators. Demonstrate what a phishing email looks like, how to assess the safety of a download, and so on.
Second, employ a firewall. While it won’t protect you from bad actors who have already gained access to your system, it will assist those out who can’t fool their way in. Firewalls restrict the amount of data that can flow in and out of a network and can be set up to notify you of suspicious URLs and IP addresses.
Third, use a VPN when online. One of the best VPN services for Windows is Systweak VPN, which combines smart DNS with a kill switch. This VPN for Windows protects your online privacy by allowing anonymous browsing and concealing your IP address with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption. Systweak VPN has 4500 servers located in 53 countries and 200 locations. Your app builds an encrypted tunnel around all of your device’s traffic when you connect to the server you’ve chosen. It also protects you from the risks of public Wi-Fi by encrypting all data sent over the network and making it inaccessible to hackers. You can quickly set up remote access from your laptop to your office or home computer if you enable your VPN on any network.
The Final Word On What Is a Command and Control Cyberattack?
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