Hackers target more than eight million computers

Rebecca Rutt
by Lovemoney Staff Rebecca Rutt on 11 February 2013  |  Comments 3 comments

A cyber-criminal ring infecting computers across the world has been shut down.

Hackers target more than eight million computers

A cyber-scam network, which has infected more than eight million computers around the world in the past two years, has been shut down.

Microsoft and Symantec combined forces and closed down the hackers' network last week

The hackers used an online virus, known as the “Bamital Botnet”, to gain access to personal details stored on PCs.

Cyber-crime network

The botnet was used by criminals to access people’s PCs and hijack online search results. It would then lead the user to an unknown website which could start downloading malware, steal their personal information or charge businesses for false online advertisement clicks.

It also led users to websites they never intended to vist. For example, one user was redirected from an official Norton Internet Security Page, which appeared in a list of search results, to a rogue antivirus website distributing malware.

Although exact numbers aren’t known, Microsoft says more than eight million computers have been targeted with this virus in the past two years and 300,000 were disconnected this week from the network.

On 31st January Microsoft filed a lawsuit which was supported by Symantec to the botnet’s operators to sever communication lines. This didn’t happen, so data centres across the US were raided and the infected servers were disrupted.

Those computers which had been infected were then disconnected from the virus network. Users were directed to get rid of the virus.

This is the sixth time in the last three years that Microsoft has stopped a cybercrime network and the second in cooperation with Symantec.

“It was done in such a sneaky way that most victims wouldn’t have even noticed a problem while the botnet was still operating,” explained Richard Domigues Boscovich, assistant general counsel for Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.

“Because the data gathered from this takedown will become part of Microsoft’s ongoing research in support of protecting its customers from a range of evolving online security threats, we can actually use the criminals’ infrastructure against them and make it harder and more expensive for them to commit cybercrime,” he added.

How to disinfect your computer

Computers which are currently infected with the virus were contacted with a message from Microsoft.

It appeared when the user attempted to search for something on the internet and told the user their computer was very likely to be infected with malware which was redirecting the results of their search queries.

Two free programmes were then listed, Microsoft Safety Scanner and the Norton Power Eraser, which users were encouraged to run to disinfect their computers. More information on how to clear the virus from your computer can be found on the Microsoft Support website.

How to avoid cyber crime

The best way to avoid being hacked is to keep your computer’s security systems up to date and regularly scan for infections. It’s also vital to use different passwords for all the accounts you use online and to use a password which isn’t likely to be hacked.

If your personal details have been stolen criminals can use them to get access to your accounts or apply for credit in your name. Therefore check your bank statements regularly and your credit record as this is where you’ll be able to spot any irregularities.

If you do see something untoward, such as a payment you haven’t authorised, call your bank immediately and let it know.

More on scams:

How to protect your PINs and passwords

Online banking: How to stay safe

Worst email scams of 2012

Large-scale fraud increasing

Identity fraud: 20m pieces of personal info traded illegally this year

Don't be a victim of ID fraud

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Comments (3)

  • Henry-GBG
    Love rating 57
    Henry-GBG said

    Could M$ products be inherently insecure? Why use them when most of the things most people do most of the time can be done better with free open source software, and it does not need the latest high spec computer to work on.

    Report on 11 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • nickpike
    Love rating 308
    nickpike said

    How does the virus get onto my computer, and I have AVG running, so presumably it would warn me?

    Report on 11 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • PoohBah
    Love rating 23
    PoohBah said

    @nickpike: No anti-virus software is completely bullet-proof, but some is better than others; in my previous existence providing online banking technical support I regularly encountered people who were perplexed because their Norton or AVG had let through all sorts of nasties (both have improved somewhat since then). One of my last successes before retiring was the discovery of a new trojan which was not being detected by any of the anti-virus software.

    For the most part, a Windows user can do quite well by installing Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free and just does its job without a fuss. Not to be confused with the "Microsoft Safety Scanner" mentioned in the article, which is malware designed to infect your computer. A good second check is to run Malwarebytes every week or so; this can be downloaded free from www.filehippo.com.

    Nothing will protect against stupidity: clicking on links in emails or opening email attachments is just asking for trouble, unless it is from someone you know AND you were expecting to receive it. That also applies to Mac and Linux users, who are not protected by a magic invisibility cloak.

    Report on 14 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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