Microsoft, Kaspersky Updates Take Down Fast-Spreading Simda Botnet

International law-enforcement authorities at Interpol teamed up with Microsoft, the Cyber Defense Institute in Japan, and security firms Kaspersky Lab and Trend Micro to take down a second major botnet last week, in a coordinated effort to disrupt the criminal operation, the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) said in a statement on April 13.

The botnet, known as Simda.AT, has infected more than 770,000 systems in the past six months, attempting to redirect Internet traffic and download additional malware to compromised computers. Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit (DCU) alerted law enforcement to the botnet following a dramatic increase in activity, IGCI stated. The groups detected approximately 90,000 newly infected systems in the United States in the first two months of this year, according the IGCI.

The botnet’s operators would steal information from compromised systems, re-route network traffic, and use their access to install other malware and software, Jon Clay, senior manager for global threat communications for Trend Micro.

“With this botnet, their intention was to infect as many people as possible,” he said. “And once they infected them, they could do pretty much anything they wanted to with these victims, whether it was steal financial information, use their systems to launch denial-of-service attacks or spam, or sell (access to) their computers off to other criminals.”

The takedown of the Simda botnet came as European law-enforcement agencies teamed up with private companies to shutter another botnet, Beebone, a smaller, but more elusive, network of compromised computers. In both cases, the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit played a crucial role, according to statements issued by participants.

The Simda botnet focused on infecting system in the United States, with American systems accounting for about 22 percent of the total infected, according to data from Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center. The United Kingdom, Turkey, Canada and Russia made up another 18 percent of infections.

The malware uses a number of sophisticated measures to avoid detection and confound analysis, including the use of domain-generation algorithms, the ability to detect analysis environments and modifying host files to redirect traffic, according to Microsoft’s analysis.

Microsoft warned that the takedown will not remove the malicious software from victims’ systems.

“While the disruption action can disable the ability of existing infections to download or update new software components, it will not disable modules that might have been installed by Simda.AT,” Microsoft said in its analysis. “If you have been infected by Simda.AT, run a comprehensive scan of your environment.”

While takedown efforts do not always result in the dismantling of the botnet, the collaboration between private companies and law enforcement is making it harder for online criminals, Sanjay Virmani, director of the Interpol Digital Crime Center, a part of the IGCI, said in a statement.

“This successful operation shows the value and need for partnerships between national and international law enforcement with private industry in the fight against the global threat of cyber-crime,” he said. “This operation has dealt a significant blow to the Simda botnet, and Interpol will continue in its work to assist member countries to protect their citizens from cyber-criminals and to identify other emerging threats.”

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