Microsoft Targets Zeus Botnets with Major Raid

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has struck a blow against cybercriminals, thanks to a major takedown of servers being used to steal login information and passwords from computers around the world.

Experts say the move could place a huge restraint on what is considered one of the world's most advanced cybercrime schemes.

On Monday, Microsoft revealed that its special cybercrime investigation division had executed both legal and technical maneuvers to reduce the number of computers capable of spreading Zeus.

This is important because Zeus is malicious software designed to infect innocent users' computers and steal any critical personal data they contain. (Source:

Zeus Builds Botnets That Steal Personal, Banking Information

Zeus infects computers and converts them to unwilling elements in special networks, called 'botnets,' controlled by criminals, hackers, or others with nefarious agendas.

Once infected, the computer logs all of the online activity of the people using it, and transmits the logs to a central criminal data center.

This data can be analyzed to provide the cybercriminals controlling the botnet with valuable information, such as email or secure network passwords, and bank account numbers.

Microsoft says that late last week, in an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of Zeus, it worked with U.S. Marshalls to seize a number of servers being used by cybercriminals.

These servers were located in various locations, including Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Lombard, Illinois.

A court order from a Brooklyn, New York-based judge gave the combined Microsoft / federal law enforcement team permission to move ahead with the raid.

Zeus Infects Millions of Computers

Microsoft says that approximately 13 million systems have been infected by Zeus worldwide since 2007, with about 3 million of those systems located in the United States. (Source:

Interestingly, Microsoft did not seek to eradicate Zeus or its controllers. Instead, it hoped to reduce Zeus' impact on innocent computer users, while simultaneously learning more about the botnet-building system and those behind it.

Presumably, knowing more about Zeus and its underpinnings would provide a chance to gather information that could lead to arrests in the future. Microsoft also admitted that the complexity of the targeted networks made them difficult to completely shut down.

Nevertheless, the company sees this latest raid as a major victory in the ongoing war against cybercrime.

"We've disrupted a critical source of money-making for digital fraudsters and cyber thieves, while gaining important information to help identify those responsible and better protect victims," said Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit senior attorney, Richard Boscovich. (Source:

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