Europol prevents hackers from controlling millions of PCs

A group of hackers that infiltrated 3.2 million compromised computers all around the world to steal banking information has been stopped by European police and technology companies, officials said.

The so-called Ramnit botnet, a network of computers infected with malware, was disrupted by the Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in a joint international operation including investigators from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

The malware, installed through links on spam email or infected websites, allowed hackers to gain remote access and control of the infected PCs, enabling them to steal personal and banking information, namely passwords, and disable antivirus protection.

“This successful operation shows the importance of international law enforcement working together with private industry in the fight against the global threat of cybercrime,” Wil van Gemert, Europol’s deputy director of operations, said.

Europol worked with Microsoft, Symantec and AnubisNetworks to shut down command and control servers and to redirect 300 Internet domain addresses used by the botnet's operators.

Officials said that seven servers were shut down overnight with most computers being affected in the UK. It is believed that Ramnit has been compromising PCs since 2012.

Europol has been coordinating cross border investigations to bring to a halt criminal activity and protect people. In November alone, US and European authorities confiscated around 400 hidden websites targeting black markets for drugs and other unlawful activities, known as Silk Road 2.0.

Microsoft and Symantec have made tools available to restore vulnerable computers' defences. EC3 also recommended those who fear their computer might have been subject to hacking to download specialist software.

Read more:
Infographic about what Botnet is, how it works and how it is used by criminals

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