ZeroAccess bot-herders abandon click-fraud network

Microsoft is claiming a total victory at least for this round over the ZeroAccess bot-herders whose criminal network was the target of a joint effort among Microsoft, the FBI, Europol and a group of security vendors.

"I am pleased to report that our disruption effort has been successful, and it appears that the criminals have abandoned their botnet," writes Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel of Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, in the Official Microsoft  Blog.

+ Also on Network World: 'ZeroAccess' click-fraud botnet disrupted, but not dead yet | Microsoft: No Ballmer replacement until next year +

Bot-herders literally signaled their abandonment with a white flag. Part of a message sent to infected computers was "WHITEFLAG",  "which we believe symbolizes that the criminals have decided to surrender control of the botnet," Boscovich writes. "Since that time, we have not seen any additional attempts by the bot-herders to release new code and as a result, the botnet is currently no longer being used to commit fraud."

The company has also dropped its civil suit against the criminals (listed as John Does in court papers) in order to give law enforcement officials free rein to pursue them, Boscovich writes.

Getting the bot-herders to walk away from their network wasn't part of the plan two weeks ago when the takedown was executed through a court order that allowed Microsoft to take control of domain names linked to the botnet and to block command and control traffic to infected computers. Similar actions were taken by Europol in five European countries.

At the time of the takedown, Microsoft said, "Microsoft and its partners do not expect to fully eliminate the ZeroAccess botnet due to the complexity of the threat. However, Microsoft expects that this action will significantly disrupt the botnet's operation."

Boscovich says that within 24 hours of the disruption, the bot-herders pushed new instructions to infected computers so they could continue their illegal work, but those messages were  traced to their source IP addresses, which were then shut down. The final messages sent to the zombie machines included the word WHITEFLAG, he says.

Microsoft says ZeroAccess, also known as Sirefef, disables security software that might be running on victim computers, making it difficult to get rid of. Microsoft offers help here.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags EuropolsecurityMicrosoftendpoint securityfbianti-malwareWide Area Network

More about EuropolFBIMicrosoft

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tim Greene

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place