Spanish police have arrested the creators of world’s biggest computer virus network. Three men are suspected of creating the Mariposa (Spanish word for butterfly) network which is considered to infect more than 13 million computers and stealing private data of their users. Jose Antonio Berrocal, the head of Spanish police unit specialized in crimes, called it the biggest network of zombie computers.
The “botnet” was closed at the end of December by Canada’s Defence Intelligence, Spain’s Panda Security, Spanish police and FBI.
Mariposa is responsible for infecting computers in 190 different countries, including homes, schools, government institutions, financial companies etc. Security experts believe that the hackers had stolen tens of millions of dollars before it was discovered.
At the very beginning Mariposa was distributing infections in Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer Web browser, USB memory sticks and through Microsoft’s MSN messenger sending malicious links. The program was secretly controlling the infected computers by enlisting them into one group, a so-called “botnet”. Then it could easily register every computer action and send the data to the ringleaders.
Additionally to collecting personal information the Mariposa hackers were renting out lots of hacked machines to other hackers for criminal purposes. The network is believed to be controlled by many people from different countries in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and South America.
One of the arrested hackers had about 800,000 pieces of personal credentials at the time when Spanish police have caught him. The police claim that the hackers didn’t understand how powerful the network has become because it could stop all the Spanish computer systems.
Mark Rasch, former head of the U.S. Department of Justice is glad that the nightmare of Mariposa is finally over. However, he understands that the “botnet” was created by more people than these three men who were arrested and their conspirators can come back online any time.