FBI Cripples Qakbot Malware Botnet

The FBI has conducted a major cyber operation, crippling the Qakbot malware botnet that raked in "hundreds of millions" in ransom....
FBI Cripples Qakbot Malware Botnet
Written by Matt Milano
  • The FBI has conducted a major cyber operation, crippling the Qakbot malware botnet that raked in “hundreds of millions” in ransom.

    According to the DOJ, the Qakbot botnet infected more than 700,000 computers. The operation involved agencies from “United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Romania, and Latvia.”

    In addition to disrupting the botnet’s operations, officials seized $8.6 million in illicit profits and cryptocurrency. As part of the operation, the FBI was able to gain control of the botnet and use it to force infected computers to uninstall the malware:

    As part of the takedown, the FBI was able to gain access to Qakbot infrastructure and identify over 700,000 computers worldwide, including more than 200,000 in the United States, that appear to have been infected with Qakbot. To disrupt the botnet, the FBI was able to redirect Qakbot botnet traffic to and through servers controlled by the FBI, which in turn instructed infected computers in the United States and elsewhere to download a file created by law enforcement that would uninstall the Qakbot malware. This uninstaller was designed to untether the victim computer from the Qakbot botnet, preventing further installation of malware through Qakbot.

    “Cybercriminals who rely on malware like Qakbot to steal private data from innocent victims have been reminded today that they do not operate outside the bounds of the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Together with our international partners, the Justice Department has hacked Qakbot’s infrastructure, launched an aggressive campaign to uninstall the malware from victim computers in the United States and around the world, and seized $8.6 million in extorted funds.”

    “An international partnership led by the Justice Department and the FBI has resulted in the dismantling of Qakbot, one of the most notorious botnets ever, responsible for massive losses to victims around the world,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Qakbot was the botnet of choice for some of the most infamous ransomware gangs, but we have now taken it out. This operation also has led to the seizure of almost 9 million dollars in cryptocurrency from the Qakbot cybercriminal organization, which will now be made available to victims. My Office’s focus is on protecting and vindicating the rights of victims, and this multifaceted attack on computer-enabled crime demonstrates our commitment to safeguarding our nation from harm.”

    “The Operation ‘Duck Hunt’ Team utilized their expertise in science and technology, but also relied on their ingenuity and passion to identify and cripple Qakbot, a highly structured and multi-layered bot network that was literally feeding the global cybercrime supply chain,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “These actions will prevent an untold number of cyberattacks at all levels, from the compromised personal computer to a catastrophic attack on our critical infrastructure.”

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