Three men have been arrested in Spain accused of masterminding one of the world’s biggest computer crime networks.
The trio is suspected of running the Mariposa botnet which infected more than 13-million computers with a virus that stole credit card numbers and other confidential data.
Security experts say Mariposa initially spread by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser and then contaminated machines by infecting USB sticks and instant messaging software.
The head of Spain’s cybercrime unit,
Commander Juan Salon said: “the botnet was also used to steal passwords from corporate websites. That way they could steal the identity of any email address holder, check their mails and send mails from that account.”
Linked together infected machines become “zombie PC’s”. They supply an enormous amount of computing power to spammers, identity thieves and internet attackers.
Removing the malicious programs could cost tens of millions of euros.
But security experts say Mariposa is just the tip of the iceberg as botnets are being constantly created.