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December 6, 2013

Microsoft Foils Hackers’ Plans for Botnet

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Microsoft, once again, is battling crime with the big boys.

The software giant has successfully disrupted a botnet —with the help of the FBI, Europol and A10 Networks Inc — that has infected more than two million computers and was pilfering $2.7 million from online advertisers each month.

The Sirefef botnet, also known as ZeroAccess, was specifically targeting search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines but, as of yesterday, Microsoft has put a significant dent in the operation of cyber-criminals who were using victims’ computers to commit fraudulent schemes, the company said in a press release.

Microsoft filed a civil suit against the hackers operating the ZeroAccess botnet last week. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted permission to the software giant to concurrently block incoming and outgoing communications between computers located in the U.S. and the 18 identified IP addresses being used to carry out illegal acts.

Microsoft also took control of 49 domains associated with the ZeroAccess botnet.

On the other side of the pond, Europol was co-ordinating with a “multi-jurisdictional criminal action targeting the 18 IP addresses located in Europe,” the press release reads. “Specifically, Europol worked with Latvia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany to execute search warrants and seizures on computer servers associated with the fraudulent IP addresses located in Europe.”

This is the second time this year that Microsoft has teamed up with law enforcement agencies to target cyber-criminals, but it is also the software giant’s first success story since opening of its Cybercrime Center on Nov. 14.

“If the hacker community has not yet taken notice, today’s disruption of the ZeroAccess botnet is another example of the power of public-private partnerships,” FBI executive assistant director Richard McFeely said. “It demonstrates our commitment to expand co-ordination with companies like Microsoft and our foreign law enforcement partners — in this case, Europol — to shut down malicious cyber-attacks and hold cybercriminals accountable for exploiting our citizens’ and businesses’ computers.”

Microsoft described ZeroAccess as one of the most “robust and durable” botnets currently in operation. It is used to commit a number of crimes, such as search hijacking, which steals people’s search results so hackers can pocket the money made via people’s ad clicks.

Those wishing to learn more about online threats such as malware can do so here. 


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.