Police Break Up International Botnet

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Police have raided the home of the alleged ringleader of an international group of cybercriminals said to be responsible for infecting more than one million computers.

The raid was conducted earlier this week at the New Zealand residence of the alleged botmaster, known online as AKILL. It was part of a joint effort by New Zealand police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

While the FBI believes the raid has helped breakup the botnet network, AKILL has not been arrested, an FBI spokesman said Thursday

Botnets are networks of infected computers that can be remotely controlled by criminals to perform a range of illegal activity, such as hosting phishing sites or launching online attacks against victims. Typically the owners of these infected computers don't even realize that their systems are being misused. In the past few years, criminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their use of botnets, making it harder for law enforcement to figure out who exactly is controlling the botnet networks.

The New Zealand raid was one of several actions undertaken by the FBI since June as part of its "Operation Bot Roast," an effort to crack down on botnets. Since Bot Roast's inception, the FBI has charged or convicted eight men, executed 13 search warrants and uncovered more than US$20 million in economic damages relating to botnets, the agency said in a statement Thursday.

FBI Director Robert Mueller called botnets the "weapon of choice of cyber criminals," in the statement. The FBI said that Internet-related fraud cost $200 million in 2006.

(Jeremy Kirk in London contributed to this story.)

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