Microsoft Seeks To Defend U.S. Election in Botnet Takedown

A coalition of technology companies used a federal court order unsealed Monday to begin dismantling one of the world’s most dangerous botnets in an effort to preempt disruptive cyber-attacks before next month’s U.S. presidential election. From a report: The takedown is a highly coordinated event, spearheaded by the software giant Microsoft and involving telecommunications providers in multiple countries. If the operation succeeds, it will disable a global network of infected computers created by a popular malicious software known as Trickbot. Beginning early Monday, Trickbot operators are expected to began losing communication with the millions of computers they had painstakingly infected over a period of months, even years. The loss of the botnet — as a network of infected computers is known — will make it more difficult for Russian-based cybercriminals and other digital marauders to do their work. It will likely take months or years for the criminals to recover, if at all.

By dramatically dismantling Trickbot’s network, Microsoft and its partners believe they will likely head-off ransomware attacks that could compromise voting systems before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3, said Tom Burt, vice president of Microsoft’s customer security and trust division. “They could tie-up voter registration roles, election night reporting results and generally be extremely disruptive,” Burt said. “Taking out one of the most notorious malware groups, we hope, will reduce the risk of ransomware’s impact on the election this year.” Coordinated takedowns like the one Monday have become increasingly common in the last several years, although the legal and technical hurdles involved are substantial. In this case, Microsoft and its partners were able to obtain a federal court order founded on Trickbot’s infringement of Microsoft’s trademarks, but ultimately aimed at disconnecting communications channels the attackers use to control the malicious software.