In a breaking development, U.S. tech giant Microsoft Corp stated, it had disabled by more than 90%, machines that were used by a gang of Russian-speaking cyber criminals to control a massive network of computers which had the potential to disrupt the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
The development was aided by a series of U.S. court orders as well as help with its technology providers in other countries,
In a statement Microsoft said, its weeklong campaign against the group running the Trickbot network was aimed at mitigating the risks of a potential disruption of the November 3, U.S. vote.
“We’ve taken down most of their infrastructure,” said Microsoft corporate Vice President Tom Burt in an interview. “Their ability to go and infect targets has been significantly reduced.”
According to cybersecurity professionals, the criminals in charge of the Trickbot network had managed to infect more than 1 million personal computers, including many inside local governments. The group had also made deals with others gangs to install malicious programs, including ransomware on the infected machines, said security professionals.
So far, no evidence has surfaced that the group worked with foreign governments,
Burt said he wanted to disrupt Trickbot before the election in case Russian agencies attempted to use it to interfere with voting or cast doubt on the results by manipulating data.
According to some security experts, new control servers were being brought online by the gang, which in turn were again getting cut off, making it harder for them to install new programs on infected computers.
“Disruption operations against Trickbot are currently global in nature and have had success against Trickbot infrastructure,” said Intel 471 Chief Executive Mark Arena. “Regardless, there still is a small number of working controllers based in Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan that still are able to respond.”
The Trickbot group has asked other malware groups to install its software, According to cyber security experts they expect the group to rebuild its infrastructure in other ways.
“Such efforts to adapt would at least distract the gang from bringing chaos to voting or other local government activity if it had been so inclined”, said Burt.