Hackers could be responsible for the slow running of your Wi-fi and devices suddenly crashing, a new report has warned.
Online security experts found that a growing number of gadgets and home networks are becoming part of worldwide criminal computer networks, dubbed botnets.
From iPhones and tablets, to baby monitors and other smart devices, cyber crooks can takeover your technology to conduct their illegal activity.
Researchers from Norton Security compiled data from parent firm Symantec and found 6.7 million more bots joined the global botnet in 2016.
Bots are internet connected devices infected with malware that allow hackers to remotely take control of many devices at a time.
Whether it’s computers, smartphones, security cameras or home routers, many consumers are generally unaware their device may have been corralled into a bot master’s control.
Combined, these devices form powerful networks, called botnets, which can be used to wreak havoc online.
This means an attack taking place on computers in the US or Asia could be powered by machines anywhere in the world.
Countries in Europe made up nearly one-fifth (18.7 per cent) of the world’s total bot population in 2016.
The worst affected countries on the continent is Russia, which account for almost 14 per cent of Europe’s botnets.
The UK fell just outside Europe’s top 10, ranking as the eleventh-highest source of botnet infections.
This is an improvement from seventh place in 2015.
London is the worst affected, with 34.4 percent of all British bots.
Candid Wueest from Norton 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.
‘It’s not just computers that are providing criminals with their robot army.
‘In 2016, we saw cybercriminals making increasing use of smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to strengthen their botnet ranks.
‘Servers also offer a much larger bandwidth capacity for a DDoS attack than traditional consumer PCs.’
Once a botnet’s owner is in control of your computer, they can use your machine in combination with others, over a network called a botnet, to carry out other nefarious tasks.
There are a number of common tasks executed by botnets, including spreading malware, generating spam, and commit other types of crime and fraud online.
Last year, a high profile botnet was created through the spread of a worm dubbed Mirai.
It was used to conduct dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks on several high-profile websites, including Twitter, Spotify and Reddit, by infecting a network of devices.
A DDoS attack is used to target a specific machine, server or website.
This is accomplished by flooding the chosen machine, server or website with simple requests for information in order to overload it and prevent it from being used.
Hackers use ‘botnets’ to do this by getting users to inadvertently download software, typically by following a link in an email or agreeing to download a corrupted file.
These botnets are then used to bombard the servers with requests, carried out simultaneously, causing them to become overwhelmed and shut down.