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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Feds Launch Operation Bot Roast

Initiative aims to find bot herders and bring them to justice

The FBI and the Department of Justice yesterday said they have launched a new initiative designed to disrupt and dismantle botnets.

Operation Bot Roast already has identified about 1 million botnet-infected computers across the country, resulting in several arrests of bot herders.

"The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has been compromised or their personal information exploited," said James Finch, assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division. "An attacker gains control by infecting the computer with a virus or other malicious code and the computer continues to operate normally."

To date, the law enforcement agencies have charged or arrested three individuals under Operation Bot Roast:

  • Robert Alan Soloway of Seattle is accused of using botnets to send tens of millions of spam messages touting his Website.
  • James Brewer of Arlington, Texas, is accused of infecting tens of thousands of computers worldwide, including some at Chicago-area hospitals.
  • Jason Michael Downey of Covington, Ky., is charged with using botnets to disable other systems.

Security experts say it is more important to break up the botnets than to arrest the individuals who create them.

"You are basically cutting a tapeworm in two [with an arrest]. The infrastructure is still there, and it can be picked up by anyone who can find it or knows where it is," says Ira Winkler, author of Zen and the Art of Information Security. "Authorities might be able to see what servers he connects to that command the rest of the bots, but it is unlikely that they will kill all of the bots." (See Dismantling a Botnet.)

The effort to break up botnets also is complicated by the fact that bot herders frequently steal each other's bots and attempt to give their own botnets an advantage, experts say. (See Botnets Battle Over Turf.)

The FBI offered some tips on preventing systems from becoming botnet-infected. "There is no easy way to tell, unfortunately," if your system has been infected, the agency noted. "It may be running slowly, your outbox may be full of mail you didn’t send, and you may get mail stating you’ve sent spam."

Operation Bot Roast is "ongoing" and will continue to seek out bot herders and arrest them, the FBI and the Department of Justice said.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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