Officials take down international botnet

The FBI and an international coalition of law enforcement officials have taken down a ring of at least 12,000 hijacked computers worldwide, which cyber crooks used to launch cyberattacks and steal sensitive data.

The connected computers are known as the Beebone botnet.

Botnets are created by malware that allows hackers to clandestinely control an entire network of compromised computers. Cyber crooks either use the network to direct massive amounts of spam without the users noticing, or they simply steal personal information from individual computers.

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The FBI worked with Europol and Dutch authorities to take down Beebone, according to a Europol release.

“This successful operation shows the importance of international law enforcement working together with private industry to fight the global threat of cyber crime,” said Europol Deputy Director of Operations Wil van Gemert.

The Beebone botnet does not rank among the biggest botnets in recent history. The infamous GameOver Zeus botnet, which law enforcement officials broke up in June, had control of more than a million computers worldwide.

“However the malware [behind Beebone] is a very sophisticated one, allowing multiple forms of malware to compromise the security of the victims’ computers,” Europol said.

U.S. officials and lawmakers have increasingly focused on the botnet threat in recent years.

The Senate held hearings on the issue in July, shortly after the FBI took down GameOver Zeus.

Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list Key Democrat accuses Labor head of 'misleading' testimony on jobless benefits Sheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary MORE (D-R.I.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights MORE (R-S.C.) have worked on a bill to combat botnets that Whitehouse said he plans to introduce this year.

The White House, as part of its broader cybersecurity legislative proposal in January, also suggested criminalizing the sale of botnets and giving the courts more authority to order botnet takedowns.