Attacks/Breaches
3/26/2012
11:15 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Leads Zeus Botnet Server Shutdown

Microsoft, U.S. Marshals, and financial industry agents raid two Zeus botnet servers farms that stole more than $100 million and infected 13 million PCs with malware.

Anonymous: 10 Facts About The Hacktivist Group
Anonymous: 10 Facts About The Hacktivist Group
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
For the second time in less than a year, Microsoft has helped bust a botnet.

On Friday, U.S. Marshals, together with representatives from Microsoft and two financial industry associations, seized Zeus botnet command-and-control (C&C) servers located at two hosting centers in Lombard, Ill., and Scranton, Pa. Microsoft said it also scuttled the two IP addresses that were associated with the servers, and said that it's continuing to monitor 800 domain names that were related to the C&C servers to help, in part, to identify the thousands of infected PCs.

The botnet takedowns occurred after Microsoft, together with the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and the National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA), filed a civil complaint--and successfully argued it--in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Microsoft said that security firms Kyrus Tech and F-Secure also provided information and analysis that helped with the takedowns.

[ Sometimes it is about money. Sometimes it isn't. Read When Hackers Want Much More Than Money. ]

The complaint, unsealed Friday, accused 39 "John Does" of "controlling computer botnets thereby injuring plaintiffs, and their customers and members." All told, the accused allegedly infected 13 million PCs with Zeus botnet software over a five-year period, allowing them to steal over $100 million. They're also accused of using the botnet to send massive quantities of spam. While the complaint named no real names, it listed as plaintiffs 65 nicknames associated with the 39 John Does, including Benny, Bentley, D frank, and Daniel Hamza, as well as Denis Lubimov, Lucky, Mr. ICQ, Noname, petr0vich, Veggi Roma, and the JabberZeus Crew.

"Some of these individuals are said to have written the Zeus or SpyEye code, others are said to have developed exploits which helped infect victims' computers. Others are said to be, or have recruited, money mules who laundered the proceeds of the criminal scheme," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post.

Many online criminals favor Zeus botnet software for stealing people's personal financial information, and both FS-ISAC and NACHA said in a statement that they joined the complaint precisely "because the botnet operators used Zeus to steal victims' online banking credentials and transfer stolen funds."

Saturday, Microsoft posted a legal notice--together with copies of all related court paperwork--warning defendants named in the complaint that they had just 21 days to file a "motion" or "answer" in the case, or they would automatically lose. Notably, Microsoft and the other plaintiffs are seeking not just a permanent injunction on the IP addresses used by the Zeus C&C servers, but also "other equitable relief and damages."

Last year, also using a civil complaint, Microsoft helped authorities to bust the Coreflood botnet. But last week's Zeus takedown marks the first time that Microsoft has helped dismantle multiple botnets at once.

"Because of the complexities of these targets, unlike Microsoft's previous botnet operations, the goal of this action was not to permanently shut down all impacted Zeus botnets," according to a statement released by Microsoft. "However, this action is expected to significantly impact the cybercriminals' operations and infrastructure, advance global efforts to help victims regain control of their infected computers, and also help further investigations against those responsible for the threat."

Another notable aspect of the case is that it's "the first time that Microsoft's legal team has used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act as part of a botnet takedown. RICO is usually directed at "the mob" or more generally organized crime gangs--said Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs, in a blog post. "This is indeed a very useful legal move for Microsoft, because there are plenty more of ZeuS botnets out there," as well as gangs running them. The abuse.ch ZeuS Tracker, for example, Monday saw 359 Zeus C&C servers online.

But will the Zeus botnet server takedown really cut into cybercrime? "Ultimately, the most important thing will be to bring those who write the malware, sell the malware, buy the malware, or profit from its use to justice," said Cluley at Sophos. "Taking over Web servers is one thing, but unless the people behind the Zeus and other malware operations are brought to book, the crime is just going to continue."

The biggest threat to your company's most sensitive data may be the employee who has legitimate access to corporate databases but less-than-legitimate intentions. Follow our advice in our Defend Data From Malicious Insiders report to mitigate the risk. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Andrew Hornback
50%
50%
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2012 | 3:40:56 AM
re: Microsoft Leads Zeus Botnet Server Shutdown
It's great that Microsoft is taking steps to help track down and bring an end to these sorts of organizations.

I would also like to see Microsoft do more to publicize what they're doing to help the end users protect themselves to keep these sorts of problems from getting any bigger, especially since Zeus supposedly only infects Windows systems.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2012 | 2:23:52 AM
re: Microsoft Leads Zeus Botnet Server Shutdown
I agree with the comment at the end by Graham Cluley, but shutting down the servers and interrupting the money stream is the next best thing.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
EVVJSK
50%
50%
EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2012 | 1:37:38 PM
re: Microsoft Leads Zeus Botnet Server Shutdown
Microsoft seems to be struggling in some areas to understand what customer want (Windows 8 and Windows Phone), but with respect to security and shutting down dangerous Malware, Viruses and Bots; Microsoft seems to have learned what is good for it's customers is also good for it ! I applaud Microsoft working to make the Internet a safer and better place.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7392
Published: 2014-07-22
Gitlist allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via shell metacharacters in a file name to Source/.

CVE-2014-2385
Published: 2014-07-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in the web UI in Sophos Anti-Virus for Linux before 9.6.1 allow local users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) newListList:ExcludeFileOnExpression, (2) newListList:ExcludeFilesystems, or (3) newListList:ExcludeMountPaths parameter t...

CVE-2014-3518
Published: 2014-07-22
jmx-remoting.sar in JBoss Remoting, as used in Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JEAP) 5.2.0, Red Hat JBoss BRMS 5.3.1, Red Hat JBoss Portal Platform 5.2.2, and Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform 5.3.1, does not properly implement the JSR 160 specification, which allows remote attackers to exec...

CVE-2014-3530
Published: 2014-07-22
The org.picketlink.common.util.DocumentUtil.getDocumentBuilderFactory method in PicketLink, as used in Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBEAP) 5.2.0 and 6.2.4, expands entity references, which allows remote attackers to read arbitrary code and possibly have other unspecified impact via...

CVE-2014-4326
Published: 2014-07-22
Elasticsearch Logstash 1.0.14 through 1.4.x before 1.4.2 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via a crafted event in (1) zabbix.rb or (2) nagios_nsca.rb in outputs/.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Where do information security startups come from? More important, how can I tell a good one from a flash in the pan? Learn how to separate ITSec wheat from chaff in this episode.