Mi­crosoft steps up bat­tle against or­gan­ised crime

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - JOSEPH MENN

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Mi­crosoft Corp said on Thurs­day it had dis­rupted the largest net­work of com­pro­mised per­sonal com­put­ers, in­volv­ing about 2 mil­lion ma­chines around the world, since it stepped up its bat­tle against or­gan­ised online crim­i­nals three years ago.

The Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton, based soft­ware gi­ant filed a law­suit in Texas and won a judge’s or­der di­rect­ing in­ter­net ser­vice providers to block all traf­fic to 18 in­ter­net ad­dresses that were used to di­rect fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity to the in­fected ma­chines.

Law en­force­ment in many Euro­pean coun­tries served war­rants at the same time, seiz­ing servers ex­pected to con­tain more ev­i­dence about the lead­ers of the ZeroAc­cess crime ring, which was de­voted to “click fraud”.

Such rings use net­works of cap­tive ma­chines, known as bot­nets, in com­pli­cated schemes that force them to click on ads with­out the com­puter own­ers’ knowl­edge. The schemes cheat ad­ver­tis­ers on search en­gines in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft’s Bing by mak­ing them pay for in­ter­ac­tions that have no chance of lead­ing to a sale. Mi­crosoft said the bot­net had been cost­ing ad­ver­tis­ers on Bing, Google Inc and Ya­hoo Inc an es­ti­mated $2.7 mil­lion (R270m) monthly.

The co-or­di­nated ef­fort marks the eighth time Mi­crosoft has moved against a bot­net and a rare in­stance of it do­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to one that is con­trolled with a peer-topeer mech­a­nism, where in­fected ma­chines give each other in­struc­tions in­stead of re­ly­ing on a cen­tral server that de­fend­ers can hunt down.

The com­pany is work­ing with na­tional com­puter se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties in var­i­ous coun­tries and with in­ter­net ser­vice providers to no­tify in­di­vid­ual com­puter own­ers with in­fected ma­chines, hop­ing to reach most of them be­fore the fraud­sters can spread new in­struc­tions.

For now, at least, the fraud by this net­work had stopped, said Mi­crosoft as­sis­tant gen­eral coun­sel Richard Boscovich. – Reuters

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