WebProNews’s Drew Bowling reported earlier about a raid conducted by Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) on a botnet operation in Scranton, PA. Microsoft’s DCU, with a court order and aid from U.S. Marshals, raided command and control centers and seized servers and other equipment used to run botnets based on Zeus trojan malware. Late last night the DCU posted a video to YouTube, which includes footage of the raid and a message by the unit about cybercrime and its commitment to tracking and taking down botnets.
Zeus malware is defined by Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center as a “password-stealing trojan that monitors for visits to certain websites. It allows limited backdoor access and control and may terminate certain security-related processes.” The trojan enables controllers to steal banking passwords and other private information from infected computers, and allows botnet originators to control large networks of infected computers, giving them increased computing power, bandwidth, and anonymity in order to carry out further attacks.
Here’s the video of Microsoft going all vigilante on botnet servers:
While I view the dismantling of botnet operations as generally a good thing, it makes me uneasy to see a private company leading raids and seizing equipment. Even when it involves a court order and assistance from federal law enforcement, this practice sets a dangerous precedent allowing private firms to investigate perceived threats and seize property in raids. Our law enforcement agencies and judicial systems are, at least theoretically, beholden to citizens and due process of law to act legally and in the best interest of citizens; companies like Microsoft, on the other hand — while they must still follow the law in their pursuits — are beholden only to company stakeholders and, to a lesser extent, to their users. The potential for abuse under such a precedent makes me squirm a little bit.
What do you think? Is the Microsoft DCU posse doing a good thing in proactively and preemptively going after cybercriminals? Or does the involvement of private companies in legal execution overstep the bounds of privacy, law, and individual integrity? Or do you think something else entirely? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.[Main Image and Video Source: Microsoft DCU YouTube Channel]