HAVE you spotted your wifi running suspiciously slowly or noticed your web-connected home gadgets crashing for no reason?

There’s a chance that your router, smartphone or even baby monitor might be a “zombie” that’s playing a part in a worldwide criminal network.

 Your router could be part of a massive botnet that's helping crooks around the world pilfer people's bank accounts

PA:Press Association

Your router could be part of a massive botnet that’s helping crooks around the world pilfer people’s bank accounts

Laptops and webcams are just a few of the gadgets that hackers are able to remotely take over and form “bot” networks or “botnets” made up of millions of hijacked devices.

These botnets seize control of internet-connected gadgets and put them to work spreading malware, generating spam and committing credit card fraud across the world.

In 2016 more than 6.7million gadgets around the world were hijacked for these nefarious purposes.

Here in Britain, people living in London, Manchester or Maidenhead were most likely to become a victim, a new report by security company Norton found.

Hackers can turn gadgets into botnets by infecting them with malware – something easily picked up while visiting a dodgy (read: porn) website or clicking on a pop-up advert – and victims will have absolutely no idea it’s happened.

Candid Wueest, Norton Security Expert said: “More than 13.8 million people in the UK were victims of online crime in the past year, and bots and botnets are a key tool in the cyber attacker’s arsenal.”

Are you part of a botnet? How to stay protected

To safeguard against malicious bots, follow this advice from Norton

A bot might cause a device to slow down, display mysterious messages, or even crash for no apparent reason.

To avoid this happening, follow these steps:

  • Install robust security software and firewalls to secure your device
  • Never ignore system updates. Configure your software’s settings to update automatically to make the most of patches and fixes that vendors provide
  • Never click on file attachments within emails or messages unless you can verify the source of the attachment is legitimate.
  • Be particularly wary of Microsoft Office attachments.
  • Use a long password that contains numbers and symbols and never use the same password for multiple services
  • Enable advanced account security features, like two-factor authorisation and login notification.
  • Always log out of your session when done
 This graphic shows the spread of botnets across the world


This graphic shows the spread of botnets across the world

Unbeknown to most of the general public, the Mirai botnet – made up of almost half a million gadgets including webcams and home routers – spread like wildfire through British homes in 2016.

During its peak, gadgets were being taken over every two minutes.

Mirai spread worldwide but nearly a third of attacks originated from devices in Europe.

It made numerous high-profile websites inaccessible as a result of an attack on DNS provider Dyn last October.

Web-connected CCTV cameras and routers were hacked by malicious code that took advantage of default passwords to create a powerful attack platform which reportedly took entire nations – like Liberia – offline.

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