The FBI and an international coalition of law enforcement officials have broken up a worldwide ring of over 1 million infected computers that criminals were using to launch cyberattacks and steal sensitive data.
The connected computers are known as the Dorkbot botnet. In the last year, Dorkbot has hit over 1 million computers in 190 countries, according to Microsoft, whose operating system was the target of the malware behind the botnet.
Botnets are created by malware that allows hackers to clandestinely control an entire network of compromised computers. Cyber criminals can either use the network to direct massive amounts of spam without the users noticing, or simply to steal personal information from individual computers.
Dorkbot has been on security researchers’ radar since April 2011, but has eluded law enforcement.
The botnet remained strong throughout 2015, picking up between 80,000 and 120,000 each month, Microsoft said. The botnet hijacked computers in numerous countries across the globe, including the United States, Argentina, China, India and Turkey.
Microsoft said it noticed Dorkbot malware was going after login details for people’s Facebook, Gmail, Netflix, PayPal and Twitter accounts.
The FBI said Microsoft assisted in the Dorkbot takedown, which also included help from the European Cybercrime Center and the Interpol Digital Crime Center.
Law enforcement officials have stepped up efforts to disrupt botnets in recent years.
In April, the FBI worked with international partners to take down the Beebone botnet, which had spread to at least 12,000 computers worldwide. The year before, law enforcement officials broke up the infamous GameOver Zeus botnet, which had control of more than a million computers worldwide.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have begun to turn their attention to the issue. Sen. 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.) has been pushing a bill that aims to combat botnets by expanding the penalties that prosecutors can seek for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits accessing protected networks.
The lawmaker tried to attach his language to the Senate’s recently passed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act — a bill that would encourage businesses to share more hacking data with the government — but the amendment was declared “nongermane” and didn’t receive a vote.
— Updated 4:10 p.m.