Microsoft Raids Take Botnet Stings Into Its Own Hands

Over the weekend, Microsoft teams accompanied by United States marshals raided buildings and seized hundreds of web addresses to shut down a major botnet syndicate. The sting was part of a civil suit brought by Microsoft—because it was tired of waiting for law enforcement bodies to act.

The New York Times reports that the raids were masterminded by Richard Boscovich, "a former federal prosecutor who is a senior lawyer in Microsoft's digital crimes unit." Botnets—collections of compromised computers used for malicious purposes—are notoriously hard to take down.

But on Friday, Microsoft raided two office buildings—one in Pennsylvania, one in Illinois—to do just that. From the New York Times:

"On Friday, Microsoft was attacking its most complex target yet, known as the Zeus botnets. The creators of Zeus offer their botnet code for sale to others and, depending on the level of customer support and customization of the code that clients require, charge them $700 to $15,000 for the software, Microsoft said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn on March 19.

"That, in turn, has resulted in many variants of Zeus botnets, making them harder to combat. Most of them are aimed at perpetrating various financial scams against online victims. Mr. Boscovich of Microsoft said he had a "high degree of confidence" that the unnamed culprits behind Zeus were in Eastern Europe...

"Microsoft does not believe the operators of the facilities it raided on Friday, which rent space to clients on computers connected to the Internet, are in league with the people behind the botnets. And those operators said they had no idea that equipment inside their facilities was being used to issue commands to Zeus."

While that does mean that the action wasn't perhaps as successful as Microsoft might have hoped, Richard Boscovich explained that the company's plan is "to disrupt, disrupt, disrupt" in the future. So, for Microsoft at least, it seems taking the law into their own hands is the best strategy. [New York Times]

Image via Nils Geylen under Creative Commons license