One Million Computers Possibly Infected
They’re called “bot-herders:” hackers who install malicious
software on computers through the Internet without the owners’ knowledge.
Once the software is loaded, they can control the computer remotely. And once
they’ve compromised enough computers, they have a robot network or botnet.
Some botnets are huge: tens of thousands of infected computers. Or more. As
a result of Operation Bot Roast, an ongoing and coordinated initiative to disrupt
and dismantle these bot-herders, the FBI has identified about 1 million computers
across the country that have been compromised.
The FBI has also charged numerous individuals with cyber crimes around the nation
as a direct result of the coordinated operation, including Robert Alan Soloway
of Seattle, Washington, accused of using botnets to send tens of millions of
spam messages touting his website; James C. Brewer of Arlington, Texas, accused
of infecting tens of thousands of computers worldwide, including some at Chicago-area
hospitals; and Jason Michael Downey of Covington, Kentucky, charged with using
botnets to disable other systems.
As the investigations continue to unfold, it is possible the FBI will uncover
more victims. Here are some important things to remember:
First, if you believe your computer has been compromised, do not call the FBI
directly. You should contact your Internet service provider. They can help you
determine if your computer has been infected, and what steps to take to restore
Second, if you determine you are a victim, then file a complaint online through
the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Third, the FBI will not contact you online and request your personal information:
Be wary of fraud schemes that request this type of information, especially via
Operation Bot Roast was launched because the national security implications
of the growing botnet threat are broad. The hackers may use the computers themselves,
or they may rent out their botnets to the highest bidder. The more computers
they control, the more they can charge their clients.
A bot-herder can do a lot with compromised computers:
- Steal the computer owner’s identity;
- Launch massive spam campaigns;
- Engage in click-fraud—schemes which artificially inflate the number
of visitors to a website; and
- Launch denial of service attacks that can cripple web servers and crash sites.
One of the difficulties in fighting this type of cyber crime is that it is difficult
for computer owners to know if their machines have been infected. There is no
easy way to tell, unfortunately. It may be running slowly, your outbox may be
full of mail you didn’t send, and you may get mail stating you’ve
“The majority of the victims are not even aware that their computers have
been compromised or their personal information exploited,” said FBI Assistant
Director James Finch, who heads the Cyber Division.
That’s why the FBI is urging every computer owner to implement the security
precautions that are available. Prevention is always better than reaction.
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