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Microsoft announces a new victory against organized botnet crime

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Surface Laptop 4 Amd 2021 Keyboard Lights (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) has taken control of hundreds of domains and created a digital sinkhole to disrupt the actions of botnet ZLoader.
  • The investigation responsible for this botnet disruption was led by the DCU alongside a host of partner organizations and groups including support from Black Lotus Labs, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42, and Avast.
  • Microsoft went so far as to publicly identify one of the cybercriminals behind ZLoader and its various components.

It's not every day Microsoft announces a win against a cybercriminal gang and publicly shames one of its operators, but here we are. On April 13, Microsoft posted a blog detailing how it managed to disrupt ZLoader, a botnet dedicated to theft and extortion.

The story behind ZLoader and its malware operations is a complex one you can read the full details of over at Microsoft's technical breakdown (opens in new tab), but the short version is that the gang responsible for the botnet would compromise small-scale legitimate domains (like your grandma's little nature blog), then use them to redirect to subdomains wherein malicious files would be dumped on unsuspecting users. From there, compromised devices could look forward to headaches such as ransomware.

Thanks to a court order from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Microsoft was able to take control of a couple hundred domains it'd identified as ZLoader turf and redirect them to a sinkhole, effectively disrupting the botnet's web of operations. Microsoft didn't stop there, though.

In its blog, the company not only touts its victory against the botnet but also exposes "Denis Malikov, who lives in the city of Simferopol on the Crimean Peninsula." According to Microsoft (opens in new tab), Malikov is one of the people behind ZLoader's operations. The company claims it chose to expose the individual as a warning to others that there is no hiding from the home of Windows 11.

Microsoft constantly provides updates on cybersecurity and has a security summit coming up on May 12, which you can register for now.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.