Computer Crime Research Center


Microsoft vs. zombies

Date: October 28, 2005
By: Tom Sanders

Microsoft has filed lawsuits against 13 unnamed senders of spam email messages through botnets.

The actual charges were filed in August, but Microsoft only now unveiled details about the case.

A botnet is a collection of hacked computers (referred to as zombie PCs) that are at the disposal of the botnet operator. They rents the machines out to send spam, host illegal websites such as child pornography or launch Distributed denial of service attacks.

The software developer earlier this year intentionally infected a computer with an internet worm which resulted in it being made part of a botnet. The operation then quarantined the machine and monitored it over a period of 20 days.

During this time the zombie was contacted 5 million times by spammers and was instructed to send out a total of 18 million spam messages, advertising 13,000 individual websites.

No spam was actually sent and the computer worm too was contained, Microsoft said. The data collected in this probe resulted in the 13 lawsuits.

Spammers are increasingly moving to zombie networks as internet providers and enterprises have cracked down on open relays. An open relay is a mail server that is configured to allow computers outside of its network to send email messages.
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