Sleepless in Ottawa after killing a botnet

April 20, 2010

A small Ottawa company is learning to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: If you kill a better botnet, the world will beat a path to your door.

In this case, the door opens into a third-floor office above a restaurant in the city's Little Italy neighborhood. From there, the seven employees of Defence Intelligence tracked and took down Mariposa – the rogue network comprised of more than 13 million computers in 190 countries. The announcement of Mariposa's fall in late February unleashed a storm of publicity that left the Defence Intelligence crew sleepless and reeling.

“While we expected media coverage,” said Keith Murphy, the company's vice president of business development, “we did not anticipate the sheer volume of requests – almost 40 media sources within a span of three days, [as well as] a barrage of queries from organizations wanting to know if they had been compromised.”

Although the company hoped that the publicity would also draw some capital investment, nothing has developed beyond some preliminary discussions. What's more, the Mariposa adventure cost the company money.

“We spent a lot of time and money to take Mariposa down, and Mariposa is only one of almost a hundred botnets that we track," Murphy said. "We didn't get much sleep, but it was worth it. Karma may not keep the lights on, but it sure can't hurt.”

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