Microsoft, Symantec take down Bamital click-fraud botnet

The botnet infected as many as 8 million computers over the past two years, the companies said

Microsoft and Symantec have dismantled a botnet that took over millions of computers for criminal activities such as identity theft and click fraud.

The Bamital botnet threatened the US$12.7 billion online advertising industry by generating fraudulent clicks on Internet ads, which fund many of the free online services available to consumers, the companies said.

As many as 8 million computers were infected with Bamital over the past two years, wrote Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel for Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, in a blog post Wednesday.

It's the sixth botnet Microsoft has shut down in the past three years, and the second done in cooperation with Symantec, Boscovich wrote.

"Most if not all owners of Bamital-infected computers are unaware that their machines are infected," Microsoft said in a civil suit filed Jan. 31 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The suit asked the court for permission to disrupt the botnet's command-and-control system. U.S. Marshals escorted investigators into Web-hosting facilities in Virginia and New Jersey, where they seized evidence and data, Boscovich wrote.

As in previous botnet-related lawsuits, Microsoft named 18 "John Doe" defendants, several of whom are listed as living in Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. The lawsuit will be amended when the defendants' real names are discovered.

The Bamital code caused users to be shuffled to malicious websites even if they clicked on legitimate search results returned by Microsoft's Bing search engine, as well as those of Yahoo and Google, according to the lawsuit.

By generating unintended clicks and visits, the botnet distorted the online advertising environment by making advertisers pay for clicks that were not genuine, the lawsuit says.

"Simply put, the ad owner paid for internet traffic that is of no use," it states.

Bamital could also steal personal information from computers and conduct distributed denial-of-service attacks, which disrupt websites by bombarding them with too much traffic.

An effort to clean up the infected computers is under way. When people with infected computers complete a search query, they're directed to a Web page from Microsoft and Symantec that explains how to remove the malicious software.

"We've found that cleanup efforts like this not only help clean people's computers, but they also take the very infrastructure the botnet needs to be impactful and profitable away from the cybercriminals," Boscovich wrote.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftmalwaresymantecExploits / vulnerabilities

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?