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.
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 WhitehouseWhat's that you smell in the Supreme Court? The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (D-R.I.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Democrat says he will 'settle' for less aggressive gun control reform 'because that will save lives' Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead 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.