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Cyren Security Blog

The Cyren Security Blog is where Cyren engineers and thought leaders provide insights, research and analysis on a range of current cybersecurity topics.

Distributed Computing Systems: Legitimate & Useful Botnets

Although the term ‘botnet’ is generally associated with cybercrime and maliciousness, it should come as no surprise that there are, in fact, fully legitimate and entirely useful botnets—better known as “distributed computing systems”—at work around the globe. In fact, someone you know may even have willingly allowed their computer to become part of one.

What Is a Botnet?

At their core, botnets are nothing more than a group of Internet-connected devices typically installed with some form of software that enables these devices to collectively perform a function and carry out commands generated by someone controlling the system. By spreading the computing power across multiple platforms, tasks can be accomplished more quickly, efficiently, and at less cost. While ‘botnets’ are typically only designed with criminal intent, ‘distributed computing’ projects are often created for the greater good.

What Is Distributed Computing?

In today’s world, we are constantly interacting with distributed computing systems. Every time we use the internet, we are taking advantage of a distributed computing system. Basically, a distributed computing system is a network of computers that work together to achieve a common goal. Sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple! Let’s take a look at how distributed computing systems make our lives easier.

Benefits of Distributed Computing

1. Improved Resource Utilization

One of the main reasons for using a distributed computing system is that it leads to improved resource utilization. By sharing resources across a network, tasks can be completed more quickly and efficiently.

2. Reduced Costs

Another advantage of using a distributed computing system is that it can help reduce costs. By sharing resources across a network, organizations can save money on things like hardware and software licenses.

3. Increased Reliability

When you have multiple computers working on the same task, there is an increased level of reliability because if one computer fails, the others can pick up the slack. This is in contrast to a traditional server where if it goes down, everyone is affected. 

4. Improved Scalability

A distributed computing system can be easily scaled up or down as needed which gives you greater flexibility than a traditional server environment.

5. Decentralization

One of the advantages of using a distributed computing system is that it leads to decentralization which gives you greater control over your data and infrastructure. 

6. Improved Security

With a distributed computing system, your data is spread out over multiple computers which makes it more difficult for hackers to access all of your information in one go. If one computer is compromised, the others are still safe which minimizes the damage that can be done. 

7. Enhanced Collaboration

Another advantage of using a distributed computing system is that it enhances collaboration because multiple users can work on the same task simultaneously from different locations.

As you can see, there are numerous reasons to use legitimate botnets. Even though botnets get a bad reputation, we actually use them in many ways. Next, we’ll go over how distributed computing is being used in our everyday lives.

Distributed Computing Examples

Perhaps the most famous distributed computing project is SETI@home. Using the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) software platform and hosted by the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, SETI@home employs the unused CPU and GPU cycles on a network of volunteer computers to analyze radio signals captured by the Arecibo radio telescope to search for possible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Other well known distributed computing projects focus on resource intensive computing tasks such as climate modeling and prediction, astrophysics, stock market prediction, molecular biology, and mathematics.

Virtually, every web application used today is built on top of a distributed system. Some of the most common use cases are:

  • Telecommunications and cellular networks
  • Blockchain technology
  • Scientific computing
  • Video conferencing systems
  • Multiplayer video games
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file- systems
  • Retail distribution and supply chain management
  • Airline and hotel reservations
  • Libraries and navigation systems
  • E-learning platforms and social networks
  • Meteorology sensor and monitoring systems

What Are the Types of Distributed Systems?

Due to the variety of models and architectures, it is nearly impossible to define what types of distributed systems there are, however, it can be divided into 3 subcategories:

1. Cluster Computing

Cluster computing is tightly or loosely connected computers that work together so they can be viewed as a single system. Common use cases include weather modeling, nuclear simulations, data mining, and solving complex computational problems.

2. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing delivers hosted services over the internet such as servers, storage, database, intelligence, analytics, and networking. Common use cases include software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, file sharing, and data storage.

3. Grid Computing

Grid computing combines computer resources that are spread over different geographical locations to achieve a common goal. Primarily used to solve complex problems that one single computer may face. Common use cases include computational biology, automotive and aerospace engineering, DNA sequence analysis, and online gaming.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, not all botnets are considered the same. In fact, legitimate botnets (distributed computing systems) are a necessity for most business operations and are used by consumers worldwide; without them, our world would be much different.

Since most business operations consist of internet-connected devices, it’s important to have an anti-phishing solution in place to continuously scan mailboxes for latent threats. If you’re interested in protecting your organization from future phishing attacks that can deliver botnet malware, contact us today for more information.

Want to learn more about cloud-based email & web security? Contact us here!


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