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Botnets have become one of the major threats on the Internet for serving as a vector for carrying attacks against organizations and committing cybercrimes. They are used to generate spam, carry out DDOS attacks and click-fraud, and steal sensitive information. In this paper, we propose a new approach for characterizing and detecting botnets using network traffic behaviors. Our approach focuses on detecting the bots before they launch their attack. We focus in this paper on detecting P2P bots, which represent the newest and most challenging types of botnets currently available. We study the ability of five different commonly used machine learning techniques to meet online botnet detection requirements, namely adaptability, novelty detection, and early detection. The results of our experimental evaluation based on existing datasets show that it is possible to detect effectively botnets during the botnet Command-and-Control (C&C) phase and before they launch their attacks using traffic behaviors only. However, none of the studied techniques can address all the above requirements at once.