The proprietors of shadowy online businesses that have become synonymous with cybercrime in recent years were arrested in their native Estonia on Tuesday and charged with running a sophisticated click fraud scheme that infected with malware more than four million computers in over 100 countries — including an estimated 500,000 PCs in the United States. The law enforcement action was the result of a multi-year investigation, and is being called the “biggest cybercriminal takedown in history.”
The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI this week were granted unprecedented authortiy to seize control over a criminal botnet that enslaved millions of computers and to use that control to disable the malicious software on infected PCs.
The target of the takedown was “Coreflood,” an infamous botnet that first emerged almost a decade ago as a high-powered virtual weapon designed to knock targeted Web sites offline. Over the years, the crooks running the botnet began using it to defraud owners of the victim PCs by stealing bank account information and draining balances.