A group of international law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are claiming a victory over the massive Andromeda botnet, which infected at least 1 million PCs each month and spawned a wave of malware families.
Andromeda, which was also known by the name Gamarue, has been active at least six years and was used to create about 80 different malware families. The botnet was also used to create the Avalanche network, which launched a massive global cyberattack, mainly targeting online banking systems, which caused about 6 million Euros ($7.09 million) in damages in Germany alone.
Avalanche was shut down about a year ago, and information from that case led authorities to Andromeda, according to Europol.
Avalanche remains ongoing as more than half of the infected computers are still in operation.
In addition to the FBI, the coalition that investigated and stopped Andromeda included the Luneburg Central Criminal Investigation Inspectorate in Germany, Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), the Joint Cybercrime Action Task Force (J-CAT) and Eurojust.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), ESET , along with other private companies, also played a role.
The coalition shut down Andromeda on November 29, but did not officially announce that the botnet was dismantled until December 4.
The process to close the Andromeda botnet involved "sinkholing," where the traffic flowing between infected computers and the cybercriminal that control the network are diverted to other servers overseen by law enforcement. In this case, the authorities used about 1,500 domains as part of the sinkholing operation.
Within 48 hours, Microsoft found about 2 million unique IP addresses infected with Andromeda malware from 223 different countries. Law enforcement made several arrests in Belarus, but no information about who was arrested and what the charges filed against them were released.
However, it was the original Avalanche investigation in 2016 that led the Andromeda botnet.
"Insights gained during the Avalanche case by the investigating German law enforcement entities were shared, via Europol, with the FBI and supported this year’s investigations to dismantle the Andromeda malware last week," according to a statement.
Created in 2011, Andromeda or Gamarue has been sold as a kit on the dark web and was used to steal credentials, as well as being able to download and install additional malware onto PCs.
"This malware family is a customizable bot, which allows the owner to create and use custom plugins. One such plugin allows the cybercriminal to steal content entered by users in web forms while another enables criminals to connect back and control compromised systems," according to ESET.
Researchers were also able to find independent Gamarue botnets in the wild and samples of it spread across the web through social media, instant messaging, removable media, spam and other exploit kits.
— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.