Microsoft has this week outlined its effort to take action against the Necurs botnet, which it says is one of the largest online criminal networks in the world.
As per Microsoft:
"Today, Microsoft and partners across 35 countries took coordinated legal and technical steps to disrupt one of the world’s most prolific botnets, called Necurs, which has infected more than nine million computers globally. This disruption is the result of eight years of tracking and planning and will help ensure the criminals behind this network are no longer able to use key elements of its infrastructure to execute cyberattacks."
Botnet systems enable cybercriminals to distribute malware and take remote control of people's systems. Once they're able to access these PCs, they can then remotely use them to commit cybercrimes.
Microsoft says that its security teams first observed the Necurs botnet in 2012, and have since seen it distribute several forms of malware, including the GameOver Zeus banking trojan.
"The Necurs botnet is one of the largest networks in the spam email threat ecosystem, with victims in nearly every country in the world. During a 58-day period in our investigation, for example, we observed that one Necurs-infected computer sent a total of 3.8 million spam emails to over 40.6 million potential victims."
Necurs, Microsoft says, is believed to be operated by criminals based in Russia, and has been used for a wide range of crimes "including pump-and-dump stock scams, fake pharmaceutical spam email and “Russian dating” scams".
Following this action, Microsoft says that it will work with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the world to help them rid their customers’ computers of malware associated with the Necurs botnet - if you want to check if your PC has been infected by malware, you can use Microsoft's Safety Scanner tool, though most of the common anti-virus tools also scan for the same.
This is a major move on the cybersecurity front, a significant advance in reducing digital crime. And while scammers and spammers will always exist in some capacity, it's good to see progress on this front, with the major players gaining traction and reducing the impacts of such activities.
This comes on the back of Facebook recently outlining its improving detection and removal processes for fake accounts on its platform, and all social platforms working to update their tools to eliminate spam and misuse.
Scammers always evolve in-step, so it's a constant game of cat and mouse, but major disruptions like this are significant, and should help to lessen the impacts.