Computers Worldwide Hit By Cyber Hackers
hacking into almost two million computers around the world - including British Government machines.
Hackers were making thousands of pounds a day
The global network of 1.9m computers infected with malicious software, or malware, was tracked to a cyber gang of six people based in the Ukraine.
The malware was remotely controlled by the gang, allowing them to read emails, copy files, record keystrokes, send spam and make screenshots, security firm Finjan said.
The criminal network of remotely controlled computers, known as a botnet, was the largest ever discovered, Finjan said.
Its server has now been shut down.
The botnet started operating in February, infecting consumer, corporate, and government machines.
By far the highest number of infected machines was found in the US, with 45% of the total while the UK's 115,000 affected machines accounted for 6% of the total.
The sophistication of the malware and the staggering amount of infected computers proves that cyber gangs are raising the bar.
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Finjan's chief technology officer
The malware infects computers running the Windows XP operating system using vulnerabilities in web browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.
It installs itself on computers when a legitimate but compromised website is visited; computer users do not have to click on a specific link or download any programmes for the malware to take affect.
"As predicted at the end of last year, cyber criminals keep on looking for improved methods to distribute their malware and Trojans are winning the race," said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Finjan's chief technology officer.
"The sophistication of the malware and the staggering amount of infected computers proves that cyber gangs are raising the bar."
The gang members, who have not been caught, were selling access to the compromised machines on a hackers' forum in Russia, auctioning access to 1,000 computers at a time for around £75 a day.
Mr Ben-Itzhak said key loggers could also be used to obtain credit card details for the gang's own use or to be sold on.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which sets standards for the use of information technology across Government, said he could not give details of the departments involved while police said they were aware of the botnet and taking "appropriate action".
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