Make us your home page
Instagram

Security firm discovers botnet of 74,000 virus-infected computers

SAN FRANCISCO — Security experts have found a network of 74,000 virus-infected computers that stole information from inside corporations and government agencies.

The unusual thing about the incident is not that it happened, but that it was discovered, and it is a reminder of the dangers of having computers with sensitive data connected to the Internet.

More than 2,400 organizations — including financial institutions, energy companies and federal agencies — were infiltrated by the "botnet," according to the NetWitness Corp. security firm, which discovered it.

NetWitness didn't name the companies or agencies whose computers were compromised. The Wall Street Journal said the affected companies included Merck & Co., Cardinal Health, Paramount Pictures and Juniper Networks Inc. Merck and Cardinal Health said in statements Thursday that one computer in each company was among those in the botnet, but no sensitive information was taken. The other two companies didn't return messages seeking comment Thursday.

"This kind of stuff is out there and it's pervasive," said Amit Yoran, chief executive of NetWitness and former cybersecurity chief at the Homeland Security Department. Parts of the botnet discovered by his firm likely are still active. He said the network appears to be run from computers in Eastern Europe and China, but it's not certain the perpetrators are there.

Botnets are networks of poisoned PCs that are remotely controlled by hackers and behave like their criminal robots. The PCs are often infected when their owners visit bad Web sites or open malicious e-mail attachments.

Botnets are a major tool for cybercrime that help criminals amass troves of stolen data that they can sell on the black market or use for their own schemes, such as yanking money from victims' bank accounts.

The botnet NetWitness discovered used malicious software called "ZeuS" that steals passwords and other online credentials. It's primarily focused on poaching Internet banking credentials and is well known in the security community.

Security experts who weren't part of the NetWitness report said the findings illustrate the growing risk from the ZeuS software, whose authors are constantly updating it to evade detection by antivirus software and other security measures.

Don Jackson, a researcher with the counter threat unit of SecureWorks, said the botnet that NetWitness found was a "major threat" but said a bigger concern is a new version of ZeuS that has appeared in the past few months and is more powerful and even harder to detect.

One of its features is that it gives a hacker the ability to conduct financial transactions directly from a compromised computer. Otherwise, the criminal would have to steal the login credentials and use them on another computer. Some banks have put up extra security measures to detect and stop that.

Security firm discovers botnet of 74,000 virus-infected computers 02/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.

    Corporate

    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.

  2. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  3. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  4. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  5. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.