Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit was granted a restraining order against criminals behind the Nitol botnet, allowing the company to thwart the spread of more than 500 strains of malware targeting millions of people through unsecure supply chains.
The order, approved Monday by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, allows Microsoft to take over hosting the 3322.org domain, which once was repository of nearly 70,000 malicious subdomains managed by attackers, including the Nitol botnet.
Peng Yong, his company Changzhou Bei Te Kang Mu Software Technology, and other unnamed accomplices were listed as defendants in Microsoft's filed complaint.
“Microsoft alleges that defendants have violated federal and state law by operating a computer botnet and other malicious software through more than 70,000 subdomains of 3322.org, causing the unlawful intrusion into, infection of, and further illegal conduct involving the personal computers of innocent persons, thereby causing harm to those persons, Microsoft and the public at large,” said the complaint.
Researchers at Microsoft linked malicious activity, dating back to 2008, to the 3322.org domain, according to a post at the company's TechNet blog.
The botnet of infected computers grew through retailers unknowingly purchasing infected machines and selling them to consumers. Through a variety of malware, attackers have gained access to victims' online banking and social networking accounts, as well as email, to steal information and money.
Capabilities detected in the botnet's malware include remote engagement of microphones and video cameras on computers, and malicious features that record keystrokes. Malware also carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks flooding victims' networks with traffic and creating hidden access points on infected computers, leaving machines vulnerable to more malware, Boscovich wrote.
“Given the security risks that malware infections can create, we also need suppliers, resellers, distributors and retailers in the supply chain to do their part in safeguarding people from harmful counterfeit software,” Boscovich wrote. “They need to adopt and practice stringent policies that ensure that the computers and software they purchase and resell come from trustworthy sources.”
The court win marks Microsoft's second botnet takedown in the last six months, with its last victory being the dismantling of Zeus command centers used to commit bank fraud.