This post may contain affiliate links, please read our affiliate disclosure to learn more.
Bot Herder: The Puppet Master behind Cybercrime?

Bot Herder: The Puppet Master behind Cybercrime?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Researcher
 Published on August 1st, 2023
This post was updated on November 25th, 2023

A Bot herder is an individual who controls and manages a group of internet-connected devices, which have been infected with malicious software. These devices are known as ‘bots’, and the bot herder uses them to perform tasks such as sending spam emails or launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Bot Herder Examples

1. The Case of Alice’s Compromised Computer

Alice, an industrious computer programmer, prides herself on her work and spends most of the day on her computer. However, even the most cautious can sometimes wander into cyber traps. One day, Alice unknowingly downloaded malicious software while surfing the internet. The seemingly harmless download was actually a bot in disguise.

NordVPN 67% off + 3-month VPN coupon

Stay One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats

Want to Be the Smartest Guy in the Room? Get the Latest Cybersecurity News and Insights.
We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Without her knowledge, this bot started operating on her computer, making it a part of a larger network of infected computers, controlled by a bot herder. The individual behind the bot used Alice’s computer to perform tasks it was not designed for.

For instance, Alice’s computer was frequently used to send out a massive amount of spam emails. This not only slowed down her system but also contributed to clogging up inboxes of other unsuspecting users. Despite being unaware, Alice had become a piece of the bot herder’s jigsaw puzzle.

2. Ben’s Insecure Home Security Camera

Ben, a homeowner who values security, installed an internet-connected home security camera. However, neglecting to adequately secure his camera made it a perfect target for a bot herder looking for vulnerable devices.

The bot herder exploited the camera’s weak security to infect it with a piece of malware. This stealthy infection gave the bot herder access to the camera’s functions without Ben’s knowledge or consent. Suddenly, his home security camera became a part of a large network of corrupted devices, widely known as a botnet.

The bot herder utilized this botnet, including Ben’s camera, to initiate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on a major corporation’s website. These attacks overwhelmed the website’s servers, causing severe disruptions. Through this example, Ben unknowingly became part of a major cybercrime activity, demonstrating the lurking dangers of an inadequately secured internet-connected device.

3. Charlie’s Deceptive App Download

Charlie, an avid smartphone user, enjoys exploring new apps. One day, he stumbled upon an app that seemed too good to be true. Ignoring his better judgment, he went ahead and installed this fake app on his phone.

What Charlie didn’t realize was that the app was a trojan horse for a bot. Once the app was installed, the bot infected his phone, giving absolute control to a remote bot herder. His phone, now a bot, started executing the bot herder’s commands without Charlie’s knowledge.

The bot herder manipulated Charlie’s phone, along with many others, to click on online ads continuously. This generated fake website traffic and resulted in fraudulent Ad revenue. This incidence casts a spotlight on unsuspecting users like Charlie and how their devices can become pawns in a bot herder’s profit-making schemes.


Bot herders, given the right circumstances, can easily misuse internet-connected devices for harmful activities such as spamming and carrying out DDoS attacks. As users of the digital world, we must prioritize our device’s security to prevent falling victims to these virtual puppeteers.

Key Takeaways

  • Bot herders control and manage multiple internet-connected devices infected with malicious software, forming a network known as a botnet.
  • Bots can infect a range of devices, from personal computers to internet-connected home appliances, turning them into tools for cybercriminal activities.
  • Botnets are primarily used for tasks like sending spam emails, launching DDoS attacks, or generating fake digital traffic for fraudulent profit.
  • Often, device owners are unaware that their device is part of a botnet and has been performing unauthorized activities.
  • The key defense against bot herders is strong cybersecurity measures, including regularly updating software, using robust security tools, and avoiding suspicious downloads.

Related Questions

1. What can you do to protect your devices from becoming part of a botnet?

Adopt robust cybersecurity practices like keeping all software updated, using reliable security tools, avoiding suspicious links or downloads, and regularly changing and strengthening your passwords.

2. What is a DDoS attack?

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is an effort to disrupt the regular functioning of a network, service, or website by overwhelming it with a flood of internet traffic. Botnets are often used to perform these attacks.

3. Can mobile devices become part of a botnet?

Yes, smartphones and other mobile devices can become part of a botnet if they are infected with a bot. This often happens through the download of fake or compromised apps.

4. How do bot herders gain control of a device?

Bot herders generally gain control of a device by infecting it with a bot, which is a piece of malicious software. This can occur when a user unknowingly downloads the bot, often disguised as a legitimate file or software.

5. Can you detect if your device is part of a botnet?

Detection can be challenging as bots are designed to operate without detection. However, signs such as slowed device performance, unexplained increases in data usage, or receiving security alerts from unknown senders might indicate that a device is part of a botnet.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional
Scroll to Top