Microsoft says it freed millions of computers from criminal botnet

BOSTON, (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp said that an assault it led earlier this month on one of the world’s biggest cyber crime rings has freed at least 2 million PCs infected with a virus believed to have been used to steal more than $500 million from bank accounts worldwide.

“We definitely have liberated at least 2 million PCs globally. That is a conservative estimate,” Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel with Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, said in an interview yesterday.

He said the vast majority of infected machines were in the United States, Europe and Hong Kong.

Microsoft and the FBI, aided by authorities in more than 80 countries, on June 5 sought to take down 1,400 malicious computer networks known as the Citadel Botnets by severing their access to infected machines. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit is working with its partners overseas to determine exactly how many of the Citadel botnets are still operational.

“We feel confident that we really got most of the ones that we were after,” he said. “It was a very, very successful disruptive action.”

The ringleader, who goes by the alias Aquabox, and dozens of botnet operators remain at large and the authorities are working to uncover their identities. Boscovich said he suspects Aquabox is in Eastern Europe.

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