The United States Department of Justice announced Monday, April 10, that law enforcement has taken down the Kelihos botnet, an automated network of hijacked computers used to steal personal data from people around the world.
Kelihos Operated Internationally for 7 Years, Distributing ‘Hundreds of Millions’ of Spam Emails Each Year
The Kelihos botnet operated internationally, the Justice Department reported, stealing personal information, distributing spam emails, and installing ransomware and other malware on victims’ computers.
Targeting Windows based machines, the infected computers became part of the botnet, which strengthened the operator’s ability to further infect other computers.
According to a civil complaint filed by the US government, Peter Yuryevich Levashov allegedly operated the botnet since 2010. Levashov allegedly used the information gained from the infected computers to advertise his illegal spam operation across the internet.
This spam operation included generating copious amounts of fake emails advertising counterfeit drugs, pump-and-dump stock schemes, and other assorted scams.
Acting assistant attorney general Kenneth A. Blanco told the public in a press release that the spam emails generated by the Kelihos botnet numbered in the “hundreds of millions” each year.
In addition to the spam operation, Levashov allegedly used his botnet to install malware on victim computers.
After obtaining the proper warrant, the Justice Department reported, agents moved to dismantle the Kelihos botnet. The warrant allowed officials to redirect the infected computers to a secure server, where professionals assisted victims in removing the Kelihos malware from their machines.
“The ability of botnets like Kelihos to be weaponized quickly for vast and varied types of harms is a dangerous and deep threat to all Americans,” Blanco said, “driving at the core of how we communicate, network, earn a living, and live our everyday lives.”
Cybercrime Becoming a Worldwide Problem as Technology Continues Evolving
When it comes to cybercrime, Kelihos victims are not alone. Scams, ransomware, and hacking have grown dramatically in the last few years, with criminals utilizing advanced technologies to attack their targets.
Bitcoin, for example, is the currency of choice for ransomware attackers. The thieves encrypt a victim computer’s files, and will only provide the decryption key if the victim sends a specified amount of the digital currency.
According to a recent report from ZeroFOX Research, Bitcoin-based ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes have reached an all time high in 2017.
“Cybercrime is a worldwide problem,” said acting US attorney Bryan Schroder for the District of Alaska.
“Protecting the American people from such a worldwide threat requires a broad-reaching response, and the dismantling of the Kelihos botnet was such an operation.”
The Justice Department has published the full press release here, along with the legal documents related to the operation.
Have you ever been the victim of a botnet? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via Pixabay, Kaspersky