With the aid of Facebook, U.S. federal investigators broke up a cybercrime ring which used a massive botnet to infect 11 million computers around the world and caused $850 million in losses.
The FBI said that Facebook aided them in the investigation by helping them to identify the root cause of the malware as well as the perpetrators according to a press released issued Tuesday.
The agency, in tandem with local law enforcement agencies around the world, arrested 10 people from Macedonia, Peru, Bosnia and Herzegovina, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, who were connected to the ring.
The perpetrators were responsible for the “Butterfly Botnet” and “Yahos” malware, which resulted in users’ credit card information, bank account information and other identification information being stolen.
A botnet is a network of infected computers that can be used to launch coordinated cyber attacks such as denial of service attacks, which are used to breach websites and networks, or to send out a large number of spam emails. The botnet allows cyber criminals to use the infected computers remotely.
The Yahos malware targeted users from sometime in 2010 to October 2012, the FBI said. But variants of the malware have affected computers for several years now and are spread through Yahoo Messenger, AOL instant messenger, Skype, MSN chat services, and Facebook.
The malware spreads itself by sending links through disguised and sometimes poorly-worded messages such as “is this you on pic?” or “hahhahaha foto ,” with an accompanying link to the website containing the virus.
In 2011, security firm FireEye noted that the Yahos malware started targeting Facebook and Myspace users in a similar manner, using Facebook’s instant messaging service to send messages containing the virus to the user’s friend list.
According to technology website Ars Technica, the Yahos virus was responsible for spreading the Butterfly Botnet. The botnet was then used to capture users’ credit card and bank account information while they were using their Internet browsers.
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