Microsoft develops fresh weapon against botnets

Software giant Microsoft has been given a new legal weapon to kick the snot out of botnets.

The US District Court of Eastern Virginia has given Redmond total, but temporary control of 276 Web domains once used by the Waledac cybergang to send instructions to the zombies in the botnet.

This means that Microsoft could basically pull the plug on the lot of them and bring the botnot crashing to its cyber knees.

But the move sets a legal precedent. All Microsoft had to do was convince District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema to issue a temporary restraining order to take the 276 domains offline when it did not have a clue who the owners were.

According to USA Today, botnets have been able to operate because the domain owners managed to keep themselves secret. US Judges have wanted to avoid trials in absentia which has made it difficult for such injunctions to happen.

With permanent ownership of the domains, Microsoft now has a proven legal means to take aim at all US registered domains, including .com, .net, .biz and .org domains which can shown to be conducting criminal activity.

And now that it has the legal precedent, Microsoft can use it to shut down any command and control servers on any botnet. All it has to do is find them, which is not as difficult as it sounds.

Microsoft said that it is now open season on botnets. The hunting licences have been handed out, and we’re coming back for more, a legal spokesman purred.

Waledac was a major source of spam and PC infections last year. It pushed 1.5 billion spam messages daily.

Redmond had a gutsful of 650 million e-mail spam messages sent to its Hotmail service.

Even after the botnet’s command centre got knocked out, tens of thousands of infected PCs continued trying to phone home for instructions. Currently there are 58,000 PCs attempting 14.6 million connections to the 276 Waledac domains it now owns.