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Massive network of hijacked computers taken down

A massive network of hacked computers connected to a botnet known as Avalanche has been taken down after police raids in ten countries.

The network, one of the largest in the world with 50,000 computers connected to it, has been used by attackers since 2009 to send millions of phishing and spam emails containing attachments with malicious software. When users opened the attachment or clicked on the link, their infected computers became part of the botnet.

The Avalanche botnet is believed to had been used to target online banking systems and knock out websites, according to German police, who led the operation to take it down.

The police have seized over 39 servers and several thousand domains forming the botnet. Suspected leaders of the cyber-gang behind the botnet have been arrested in North Germany. Two people who are believed to have been the administrators of the botnet were arrested in Ukraine and another person was arrested in Berlin, officials added.

Investigators said the suspects had operated the commandeered network and made it available to other criminal groups. Officials estimated worldwide damages at upward of several hundred million euros.

The raids came after more than four years of intensive investigation by specialists in 41 countries.

The strike came in the same week that hackers tried to create the world's biggest botnet, or an army of zombie computers, by infecting routers of 900,000 Deutsche Telekom customers with malicious software. The attack failed but froze the routers, causing outages in homes, businesses and government offices across Germany on Sunday and Monday.

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