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Lessons from the Takedown of Avalanche

The scale of online crime continues to grow and grow.

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the successful takedown of “Avalanche,” a massive international malware network.

Here are a few of the statistics:

  • Infected computers in the network: About 500,000.
  • Number of countries where victims were found: 180 (almost all of them).
  • Number of years of investigation and preparation necessary to defeat it: Four.
  • Types of malware distributed: More than 20.
  • Monetary losses sustained by victims: Hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Nations cooperating in the investigation: 30.
  • Number of servers seized or otherwise taken down: More than 260 worldwide.
  • Number of domains involved: Over 800,000.

Taking down this botnet required the cooperation and law-enforcement coordination of these countries: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hungary, India, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Avalanche network was technically quite sophisticated, relying heavily on the ‘fast flux’ technique (changing domains and name servers dynamically, to thwart detection).

The complexity and massive global scope of Avalanche even introduced legal challenges for the investigators.

Ultimately, the international takedown effort resulted in the arrests of only five people.

In other words, a relative handful of hackers were able to create a worldwide malware network that required the combined efforts of 30 governments to defeat.

Such a large, sophisticated operation shows the scale of the threat that cybercrime poses today.

Photo credit: Andrew Coelho via Unsplash

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