Microsoft’s study into unsecure supply chains leads to botnet disruption

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has disrupted the functioning of yet another botnet by effecting a takedown of a domain which was also hosting over 500 different strains of malware and has been linked to malicious activity since 2008.

The takedown is the result of an investigation that Microsoft has launched in order to find out how criminals use supply chains to introduce counterfeit software embedded with malware. During the investigation they discovered that twenty percent of the PCs the researchers bought from an unsecure supply chain were infected with malware, and that unsuspecting victims have their newly bought computers automatically enslaved in a botnet and ready to spy on its owners and infect other computers by spreading via USB flash drives.

By filing suit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Microsoft was granted a restraining order against an individual by the name of Peng Yong, his company, and three other unnamed individuals behind the scheme, as well as the permission to transfer the hosting of the domain in question ( and nearly 70,000 of its subdomains to Microsoft.

The malware strains found on these subdomains are capable of many malicious actions – from remotely turning on an infected computer’s microphone and video camera to recording keystrokes.

“The Nitol botnet malware itself carries out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that are able to cripple large networks by overloading them with Internet traffic, and creates hidden access points on the victim’s computer to allow even more malware – or anything else for that matter – to be loaded onto an infected computer,” explained Richard Boscovich, Assistant General Counsel with the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.

While the botnet cannot be considered dead, its operation has obviously been crippled for the time being.

“Microsoft is fully committed to protecting consumers by combating the distribution of counterfeit software and working closely with governments, law enforcement and other industry members in these efforts. Our disruption of the Nitol botnet further demonstrates our resolve to take all necessary steps to protect our customers and discourage criminals from defrauding them into using malware infected counterfeit software,” says Boscovich.

He also offered advice on how users can prevent themselves for falling for such schemes: beware of deals that appear too good to be true.

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