Huge 'botnet' amputated, but criminals reconnect

The sudden takedown of an Internet provider thought to be helping spread one of the most promiscuous pieces of malicious software out there appears to have cut off criminals from potentially millions of personal computers under their control.

But the victory was short-lived. Less than a day after a service known as "AS Troyak" was unplugged from the Internet, security researchers said Wednesday it apparently had found a way to get back online, and criminals were reconnecting with their unmoored machines.



The drama initially raised hopes of a sharp drop-off in fraud, because criminals could no longer communicate with many computers infected with a type of malware known as "ZeuS," which is mostly used to steal online banking usernames and passwords. Hundreds of criminal operations around the world use the malware.



It's unknown how many computers are infected with ZeuS, but it's estimated to be in the millions. Cisco said as many as 25 per cent of the world's ZeuS-infected machines were unplugged from the massive "botnet" overnight with the takedown of AS Troyak.



Botnets are networks of infected PCs that behave like criminals' remote-control robots. They steal identities en masse and are used to attack Web sites.



But instead of a slam-dunk victory, the incident wound up highlighting the whiplash pace at which criminals can resurrect their illicit businesses after what should have been a devastating setback.



RSA, the security division of EMC Corp., said dozens of malicious servers that criminals used to spread ZeuS were connected to the Internet by AS Troyak. The service inexplicably went dark Tuesday, severing the ties between criminals and ZeuS-infected machines under their control.



It's not publicly known who pulled the plug. It could have been law enforcement, security researchers, or even the criminals themselves if they decided to move their operations to other servers.



Shutting down malware operations is a constant cat-and-mouse game.



Some services exist solely to host malicious content, and when their connections to the Internet are severed, it's often relatively easy to find another provider willing to sell them a new connection.



RSA researchers wrote in a note to clients that their experience shows that "these kinds of drastic changes are usually short-lived, as in the long run, criminals tend to restructure their criminal activity and relaunch their online attacks."



That apparently happened - and quickly. By Wednesday, researchers said the servers appeared to be back online, through a new Internet provider.



Cisco researchers said a total of 68 command-and-control servers were brought down, but that it's unknown how many infected computers were connected to each of those.



But they added that the criminals may have known the servers were going to be brought down, because traffic to those servers spiked over the weekend, suggesting they were directing infected computers to point to new servers.



One of the most high-profile takedowns of a malicious Web site hosting service involved a company called McColo Corp. whose Internet service was severed in the winter of 2008 after researchers amassed evidence of the company's wrongdoing.



Worldwide spam volumes almost instantly dropped by half, but within days started climbing again.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    Ashdown Group: Part time Network Support Analyst / Windows Systems Administrat

    £30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

    £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick