IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is a protocol for real-time text messaging between internet-connected computers created in 1988. It is mainly used for group discussion in chat rooms called “channels” although it supports private messages between two users, data transfer, and various server-side and client-side commands. As of April 2011, the top 100 IRC networks served over 500,000 users at a time on hundreds of thousands of channels.
IRC is a popular method used by botnet owners to send commands to the individual computers in their botnet. This is done either on a specific channel, on a public IRC network, or on a separate IRC server. The IRC server containing the channel(s) that are used to control bots is referred to as a “command and control” or C2 server.