Microsoft, US feds disrupt Citadel botnet network

More than 1,400 Citadel botnets, responsible for over half a billion U.S. dollars in losses, were disrupted

Microsoft and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation have taken aim at a botnet network based on malware called Citadel that is held responsible for stealing people's online banking information and personal identities.

The company, however, warned that because of Citadel's size and complexity, it does not expect to fully take out "all of the botnets in the world using the Citadel malware."

Botnets are networks of computers infected by malware, which can be controlled by cybercriminals to send automated spam email, spread viruses, attack computers and servers, and commit other kinds of crime and fraud, without the knowledge of the owner of the computer.

In an action, code-named Operation b54, more than 1,400 Citadel botnets, which are said to be responsible for over half a billion U.S. dollars in losses to people and businesses worldwide, were disrupted, according to a blog post late Wednesday by Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel of Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit.

The malware has affected more than five million people, with some of the highest number of infections in the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and Australia, Microsoft said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Microsoft and U.S law enforcement seized data and evidence from the botnets, including servers from two data hosting facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Microsoft had earlier received authorization from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to simultaneously cut off communication between the 1,462 botnets and the infected computers under their control.

During investigations started in early 2012, Microsoft and partners found that computers infected by the Citadel malware were keylogging, or monitoring and recording keystrokes, to gain access to a victim's bank account or any other online account in order to withdraw money or steal personal identities, according to a statement by Microsoft.

Microsoft got assistance from the Financial Services - Information Sharing and Analysis Center, NACHA, and the American Bankers Association in its efforts to disrupt Citadel. NACHA manages the ACH Network, a backbone for the electronic movement of money and data. Tech companies Agari, A10 Networks, and Nominum also helped. The collaborative action is Microsoft's seventh operation against botnets.

In the course of investigations, it was found that Citadel also blocked victims' access to many legitimate anti-virus and anti-malware sites, to prevent them from removing the threat from their computer. It was also found that cybercriminals are using fraudulently obtained product keys created by key generators for outdated Windows XP software to develop their malware. Microsoft cited it as evidence of "another link between software piracy and global cybersecurity threats." Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 have measures in place to help protect against this type of misuse of product keys, Boscovich wrote.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityMicrosoftlegalCivil lawsuits

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?