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Microsoft joins FBI in cybercrime crackdown

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US, with the help of Microsoft and authorities spread across numerous countries, has cracked down on a vast crime ring that used an array of malicious computer networks to commit more than half a billion dollars' worth of bank fraud.

The technology giant, working with law enforcement and partners in the financial services industry, helped take down more than 1,400 botnets, or networks of computers infected with malicious software know as malware. Once installed, the malware, called Citadel, would monitor and record the victim's keyboard commands. This allowed the cybercriminals behind the software to record personal identity information and gain access to bank accounts.

According to Microsoft, the Citadel malware "has affected upwards of five million people" in places as far apart as the US, Singapore, India, Australia and Europe.

"The harm done by Citadel shows the threat that botnets, malicious software, and piracy pose to individuals and businesses around the world," Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith said.

The action came after Microsoft filed a civil case against the alleged operators of the Citadel botnets last week and received the all-clear from a US court to cut off communication between the botnets. The alleged criminals were only identified in the court documents as "John Does," indicating that authorities are yet to track down the operators.

Despite the vast, co-ordinated crackdown, Microsoft said that given the extent of the criminal operation it is likely that some botnets using the Citadel malware are likely to remain in action.