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Microsoft legal punch may change botnet battles forever
Security
Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 09 September 2010 18:05


Senior Microsoft attorney Richard Boscovich says the company is expected to get a big win in its legal case against the operators of the Waledac botnet.

With court backing and a novel use of a civil procedure, Microsoft appears to be close to obliterating the Waledac spam botnet, changing the way online criminal operations are defeated.

A magistrate judge in federal court in Virginia is expected to recommend within days that the judge hearing Microsoft's case grant a default judgment, Richard Boscovich, a senior Microsoft attorney told CNET on Wednesday.

This would mean that the 276 Web domains deployed as Waledac command-and-control servers to provide instructions to thousands of infected computers would be forfeited to Microsoft, effectively shutting down the botnet for good, he said.



What's unusual about the case is that Microsoft is relying on a procedure known as "ex parte," which allows a court to make decisions without the purported owners of the domains to be present. Ordinarily, a judge couldn't give away property, such as domain ownership, without providing the registered domain owner the right to challenge the request in court.

However, because the registrants of the Waledac domains were not motivated by notices provided online and in print publications to come forward and because Microsoft was able to convince the court that it was in the public interest to shut down the domains, the court is taking its side on the issue, Boscovich said.

The magistrate judge indicated in comments from the bench on Friday that he will recommend to U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema, who is overseeing the case, grant ownership of the domains to Microsoft, Boscovich said. "If the district court agrees with the magistrate judge, and we have a high degree of confidence that will be the case, then a final default judgment order will be entered," he said.

The botnet operators, who registered most of the domains in China under false names, are aware of what is going on, Boscovich said. The Web site Microsoft set up for the pleadings was heavily probed with unauthorized access attempts, and the company suspects the Waledac operators are behind that, he said. In addition, they are believed to be responsible for an online threat received by a researcher who works at an industry partner of Microsoft's, Boscovich added, declining to name the researcher or the company.

"They did get notice, but they elected not to come forward because the domains are used for illegal purposes--running a botnet," he said.

Microsoft relied on ex parte in requesting a temporary restraining order the court granted in February shortly after the company filed its lawsuit. That order temporarily shut down the Waledac domains without the registrants first being notified.

 

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