Network of Hacked Computers Dismantled by FBI

( – The FBI and European agencies disabled a gargantuan network of infected computers that had been used to attack multiple companies and steal millions of dollars. The network was called Qakbot and consisted of upwards of 700,000 computers that had malicious code installed allowing Russia-speaking gangs to engage in complex attacks while concealing themselves.

The announcement of the takedown came Tuesday, August 29th, and indicated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) seized over $8 million worth of digital currency or crypto in the process. They said that 200,000 of the Qakbot-infected machines had been located in the US.

DOJ also indicated that the operation was a joint collaboration between US and European law enforcement, including agencies in Germany, France, the UK, and the Netherlands. A reward of $10 million was announced by the State Department for any information leading to the arrest of the authors of the code.

Qakbot was a “botnet” or virtual army of computers that hackers can activate for a specific purpose. With such a tool, a hacker or hackers could disrupt service to any particular website or server on the internet. It can also be used to gain illicit access to targeted systems.

The tool itself has been known to law enforcement for 15 years, but the number of attacks as well as their impact created a pressing need for law enforcement to respond – in the last two years, the network attacked 40 different organizations with ransomware totaling $58 million in stolen currency.

The FBI was able to redirect Qakbot’s slave computers through servers they controlled and from there, they were able to remotely uninstall the malicious software without having direct physical access to the infected machine.

The hackers could rebuild the network or something similar in the future, but it will take them some time to accomplish the feat. FBI Director Christopher Wray’s statement on the matter suggested they would continue to target networks like Qakbot as well as the assets stolen by criminal organizations.

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