Microsoft has kicked off a new initiative to try to stop the spread of the Nitol Botnet, and it has the backing of a US District Court in East Virginia in doing so. Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit was granted permission to go after those distributing the Botnet after it was discovered that cybercriminals were infiltrating the company's supply chain. Apparently, these unfavorable folks were loading counterfeit software housing the malware onto PCs at some point in the supply chain, leading retailers to unknowingly sell the infected machines.
Microsoft says that a supply chain becomes unsecure when reseller accepts stock from an untrustworthy source. After launching an investigation into these unsecure supply chains, Microsoft determined that it was being hosted at 3322.org, which contained a "staggering 500 different strains of malware hosted on more than 70,000 sub-domains." The company obtained an ex parte temporary restraining that allows it to take control of 3322.org, thus stopping the spread of Nitol from it and its sub-domains.
In a write-up on the Microsoft Blog, the company says that 20% of the PCs purchased from an unsecure supply chain during its investigation were infected with malware, which obviously isn't good. Nitol is capable of spreading to other machines and devices through things like USB flash drives, making the problem even more severe. Once you've been infected, all kinds of nasty things can happen to your computer, from the malware distributors remotely activating your webcams and microphones to listen in on what you're doing, to logging all of your keystrokes and netting your personal information without you ever knowing your security has been breached.
While this is a big step in the right direction in the fight against Nitol, Microsoft is urging distributors, retailers, and resellers to make sure that the machines they buy and then sell to consumers are coming from legitimate sources. Microsoft also says that lawmakers need to do their part to help with the issue. As with most efforts against Malware, Microsoft's battle against the Nitol Botnet is ongoing, so expect to hear more about it soon. Stay tuned.