Police have raided the home of the alleged ringleader of an international group of cybercriminals said to be responsible for infecting more than one million computers.
The raid was conducted earlier this week at the New Zealand residence of the alleged botmaster, known online as AKILL. It was part of a joint effort by New Zealand police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
While the FBI believes the raid has helped breakup the botnet network, AKILL has not been arrested, an FBI spokesman said Thursday.
AKILL is an 18-year-old New Zealand man who lives in the province of Waikato, said Detective Inspector Peter Devoy of the New Zealand Police. With the help of an FBI agent on-site in New Zealand, local authorities raided his house on Wednesday. "We've seized his computers and we'll be forensically analyzing them over the next few days," he said.
Botnets are networks of infected computers that can be remotely controlled by criminals to perform a range of illegal activity, such as hosting phishing sites or launching online attacks against victims.
Typically the owners of these infected computers don't even realise that their systems are being misused. In the past few years, criminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their use of botnets, making it harder for law enforcement to figure out who exactly is controlling the botnet networks.
AKILL infected PCs using malware known as Akbot, which has been known in the antivirus community for about two years now, Devoy said.
Authorities are unsure of the current size of the AKILL botnet, but it was powerful enough to inadvertently take down a server at the University of Pennsylvania in February 2006.
That's when a University of Pennsylvania student named Ryan Brett Goldstein, 21, allegedly conspired with AKILL to launch a 50,000-computer botnet attack against several IRC (Internet Relay Chat) servers and a computer security Web site called ssgroup.org. The botnet was set up to retrieve instructions from a university server, which eventually crashed under the load, according to investigators.