Illegal SEO botnet shut down

Posted on February 13, 2013


An illegal botnet, estimated to be taking over £1m (£635,000) a year through the exploitation of SEO practices, has been closed down by security teams in the US.

The Bamital-botnet, which is said to have up to one million computers, including many in the UK, was shut down by a team made up of Microsoft and Symantec. Several data centres in the US were raided.

The system worked by placing fraudulent links on SERPS, having analysed the search terms people were using. When the links were clicked on, Bamital would passively collect ID data when entered on the computer.

The scam went further too, through using already infected machines to “recruit” other computers.

Writing about the operation, Richard Boscovich of Microsoft said:

“In the last two years, more than eight million computers have been attacked by Bamital.

“The botnet’s search hijacking and click fraud schemes affected many major search engines and browsers, including those offered by Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.

“Because this threat exploited the search and online advertising platform to harm innocent people, Microsoft and Symantec chose to take action against the Bamital botnet to help protect people and advance cloud security for everyone.”

Boscovich said he was confident the team had taking out all threats of this particular scam, though there are many others out there. Not all use search engine optimisation analysis to operate though, with many more complex devices used.

This particular botnet is thought to be responisble for infecting anywhere between 300,000 and 1m machines, whilst 18 ringleaders have so far been identified.


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