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Microsoft offers $250,000 reward for Rustock botnet information

July 18, 2011 |  5:28 pm

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Microsoft Corp. is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of those controlling Rustock, an infamous botnet once responsible for enslaving an estimated 1 million computers worldwide and forcing them to generate billions of spam emails.

The bounty comes a few months after Microsoft, law enforcement and industry partners took down the botnet in March by dismantling a core network of servers. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant didn't stop there, placing ads in Russian newspapers in St. Petersburg and Moscow in an attempt to find the main perpetrators behind the spam machine. Evidence suggests they operated out of Russia, Microsoft said.

In its heyday, Rustock infiltrated computers when users unwittingly visited compromised websites. Once the botnet gained control, the computer could be marshaled to the service of its overlords and tasked with sending junk mail, including lottery scams and links to sites that peddled unlicensed pharmaceutical drugs.

Richard Boscovic, senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, explained in a blog post that the $250,000 reward "stems from Microsoft’s recognition that the Rustock botnet is responsible for a number of criminal activities and serves to underscore our commitment to tracking down those behind it.

"While the primary goal for our legal and technical operation has been to stop and disrupt the threat that Rustock has posed for everyone affected by it, we also believe the Rustock bot-herders should be held accountable for their actions."

Since the takedown, Microsoft said, the number of computers controlled by Rustock has dropped by more than half.

Anyone with information about Rustock perpetrators should email Microsoft at avreward@microsoft.com.

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-- Shan Li

Photo: Visitors look at laptops displayed at the Microsoft booth during the Computex 2011 computer fair at the TWTC Nangang exhibition hall in Taipei, Taiwan, in May. Credit: Pichi Chuang / Reuters

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