Microsoft Raids Tackle Net Crime
Posted in: Legal & Security at 26/03/2012 20:13
Microsoft employees, accompanied by United States marshals, raided two nondescript office buildings in Pennsylvania and Illinois on Friday, aiming to disrupt one of the most pernicious forms of online crime today -- botnets, or groups of computers that help harvest bank account passwords and other personal information from millions of other computers.
With a warrant in hand from a federal judge authorizing the sweep, the Microsoft lawyers and technical personnel gathered evidence and deactivated Web servers ostensibly used by criminals in a scheme to infect computers and steal personal data. At the same time, Microsoft seized control of hundreds of Web addresses that it says were used as part of the same scheme.
Microsoft moves to disable Zeus botnet
A global operation has been undertaken to disable a number of botnets believed to be responsible for the theft of millions of pounds, Microsoft has said.
The company is working in collaboration with financial services to disable botnets powered by Zeus malware.
Microsoft described the action as its "most complex effort to disrupt botnets to date".
However, security company Sophos Labs said it had not seen any "significant disruption" to the illegal network.
Microsoft, Financial Partners Seize Servers Used In Zeus Botnets
Microsoft continued its aggressive legal tear against botnets with a new operation where the software giant successfully seized some command-and-control (C&C) servers run by cybercriminals using Zeus and its related crimeware.
So far it's unclear just how the raid and removal of an undisclosed number of Zeus C&C servers at two U.S. hosting centers that was engineered by Microsoft with the help of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and electronic payments association NACHA, Kyrus Tech, and F-Secure, has affected Zeus and Zeus-variant online crime worldwide. But according to new data from Unveillance, which tracks botnets and botnet activity, Zeus activity overall has dipped over the past seven days.
Microsoft Disrupts the Zeus Infrastructure by Terry Zink
Over the weekend and this morning, Microsoft, working in conjunction with others, issued civil lawsuits to sinkhole numerous domains associated with the Zeus botnet. When I say "botnet", I use the term loosely because Zeus is not a botnet in the sense that Rustock or Waledac is (or was). Rather, Zeus is a tool kit that online criminals can buy that lets them create phishing pages, perform fast fluxing, host drive-by downloads in addition to spamming. It's more like infrastructure than a botnet, although it does have a large botnet under its control.
Microsoft Joins Financial Services Industry to Disrupt Massive Zeus Cybercrime Operation That Fuels Worldwide Fraud and Identity Theft [news release]
In its most complex effort to disrupt botnets to date, Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with the financial services industry -- including the Financial Services - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association -- as well as Kyrus Tech Inc., announced it has successfully executed a coordinated global action against some of the most notorious cybercrime operations that fuel online fraud and identity theft. With this legal and technical action, a number of the most harmful botnets using the Zeus family of malware worldwide have been disrupted in an unprecedented, proactive cross-industry action against this cybercriminal organization.
Through an extensive and collaborative investigation into the Zeus threat, Microsoft and its banking, finance and technical partners discovered that once a computer is infected with Zeus, the malware can monitor a victim's online activity and automatically start keylogging, or recording a person's every keystroke, when a person types in the name of a financial institution or ecommerce site. With this information, cybercriminals can steal personal information that can be used for identity theft or to fraudulently make purchases or access other private accounts. In fact, since 2007, Microsoft has detected more than 13 million suspected infections of the Zeus malware worldwide, including approximately 3 million computers in the United States alone.
"With this action, we've disrupted a critical source of money-making for digital fraudsters and cyberthieves, while gaining important information to help identify those responsible and better protect victims," said Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. "The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit has long been working to combat cybercrime operations, and today is a particularly important strike against cybercrime that we expect will be felt across the criminal underground for a long time to come."
This disruption was made possible through a successful pleading before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which allowed Microsoft and its partners to conduct a coordinated seizure of command and control servers running some of the worst known Zeus botnets. Because the botnet operators used Zeus to steal victims' online banking credentials and transfer stolen funds, FS-ISAC and NACHA joined Microsoft as plaintiffs in the civil suit, and Kyrus Tech Inc. served as a declarant in the case. Other organizations, including F-Secure, also provided supporting information for the case.
As a part of the operation, on March 23, Microsoft and its co-plaintiffs, escorted by the U.S. Marshals, seized command and control servers in two hosting locations, Scranton, Pa., and Lombard, Ill., to seize and preserve valuable data and virtual evidence from the botnets for the case. Microsoft and its partners took down two Internet Protocol addresses behind the Zeus command and control structure, and Microsoft is currently monitoring 800 domains secured in the operation, which are helping identify thousands of computers infected by Zeus.
This is the second time Microsoft has conducted physical seizures in a botnet operation, and it is the first time other organizations have joined Microsoft as plaintiffs in the legal case for a botnet operation. This is also the first operation for Microsoft that involved the simultaneous disruption of multiple operating botnets in a single action and is the first known time the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act has been applied as the legal basis in a consolidated civil case to charge all those responsible in the use of a botnet.
"As crimes against banks and their customers move from stickups to mouse clicks, we're also using our own mouse clicks -- as well as the law -- to help protect consumers and businesses," said Greg Garcia, a spokesperson for the three major financial industry associations that worked with Microsoft on this initiative. "Disrupting the Zeus botnets is just one strike in our long-term commitment to help defend and protect people."
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. 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. As with its previous botnet operations, Microsoft will now use the intelligence gained from this operation to partner with Internet service providers and Community Emergency Response Teams around the world to help rescue people's computers from the control of Zeus, helping to reduce the size of the threat that these botnets pose and to help make the Internet safer for consumers and businesses worldwide. Together, these aspects of the operation are expected to undermine the criminal infrastructure that relies on these botnets every day to make money and to help provide new tools for the industry to work together to proactively fight cybercrime.
Michael Tanji, chief security officer of Kyrus Tech Inc., who helped analyze the Zeus malware and determine which botnets were the most dangerous said, "We are proud to have played a part in this groundbreaking effort and hope that others will start working together to combat malicious activity at the same scale as it is being perpetrated."
There are steps consumers and businesses can take to better help protect themselves from becoming victims of malware, fraud and identity theft. All computer users should exercise safe practices, such as running up-to-date and legitimate computer software, firewall protection, and antivirus or antimalware protection. People should also exercise caution when surfing the Web and clicking on ads or email attachments that may prove to be malicious. For computer owners worried their computers might be infected, Microsoft offers free information and malware cleaning tools at support.microsoft.com/botnets that can help people remove Zeus and other malware from their computers. For businesses looking for more information about corporate account takeover issues, including those due to malicious software, a fraud advisory from FS-ISAC, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service can be found at www.fsisac.com/files/public/db/p265.pdf.
More information about today's news and the coordinated action against Zeus is available at www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/dcu. Legal documentation in the case can be found at www.zeuslegalnotice.com.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center was formed in 1999 and is a non-profit, private financial sector initiative. It was designed and developed and is owned by financial institutions. Its primary function is to share timely, relevant and actionable information of physical and cyber security threat and incident information to help mitigate the risk associated with these threats. [http://www.fsisac.com/]
About NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association
NACHA manages the development, administration, and governance of the ACH Network, the backbone for the electronic movement of money and data. The ACH Network provides a safe, secure, and reliable network for direct account-to-account consumer, business, and government payments. Annually, it facilitates billions of Direct Deposit via ACH and Direct Payment via ACH transactions. Used by all types of financial institutions, the ACH Network is governed by the fair and equitable NACHA Operating Rules, which guide risk management and create payment certainty for all participants. As a not-for-profit association, NACHA represents more than 10,000 financial institutions via 17 regional payments associations and direct membership. Through its industry councils and forums, NACHA brings together payments system stakeholders to foster dialogue and innovation to strengthen the ACH Network. To learn more, please visit www.nacha.org.
AboutKyrus Tech, Inc.
Kyrus is a security innovation company. We have deep expertise in vulnerability research, reverse engineering, computer forensics and custom software development. We apply those skills to conduct research and develop solutions for the business, critical infrastructure and national security communities. We strive to disrupt the status quo. We believe that approaching security problems from diverse perspectives and without preconceptions is the only way for security to become both a valued and a cost-effective capability.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.