Microsoft goes up against massive extortion botnet

The Pip Boy from the Fallout series being the benevolent hacker he is
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Cybercrime may not be as cool as my brain thinks it is every time it hears it, but it is a huge problem. Even in 2022 we have sophisticated phishing scams still successfully targeting fairly savvy PC users. Some of these digital attacks are huge, consisting of large groups of bad actors all over the world who then go on to infect even more machines. These form what's called Botnets, like the 1 million strong one Google recently faced down, and they do devastating damage to innocent people everywhere. 

Microsoft has recently announced its taken legal and technical action against Zloader, another problematic Botnet ruining people's lives. Zloader is a notorious botnet that operates out of computers all over the world, even in hospitals and schools. It's known for installing malware and then extorting users, and even selling the ability to distribute ransomware to other criminals.

One such piece of ransomware Zloader has been known to distribute is Ryuk and it specifically targets hospitals and health care institutions. It then extorts payments from patients, which is just some truly evil stuff. 

It almost sounds like the American healthcare system. It's almost like charging people for healthcare creates an uneven playing field of desperation and creates a population ripe for being targeted by scams. Almost.

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This is why it's such good news that Microsoft has obtained a court order from the United States District Court of the Northern District of Georgia. This gives Microsoft control of 65 known domains Zloader was using to target, grow, and communicate. Zloader has a known domain generator which Microsoft also has court permission to target and attempts are being made to block future registrations.

Microsoft has also come out in naming one of the people behind the creation and distribution of the Zloader Botnet. The company explains this decision was made in order to take away anonymity from cybercriminals. 

Given the use of Zloader, it sounds pretty fair for one of its creators, Denis Malikov, who lives in the city of Simferopol, be outed for their deeds. Microsoft also says that both this and the legal actions taken are after months of investigations by its digital crime unit into the botnet. 

Hopefully this all means Zloader will be fairly disrupted for now. Microsoft and law enforcement are said to continue efforts to shut down Zloader, as they expect the botnet to attempt to revive itself despite the current actions taken. 

Hope Corrigan
Hardware Writer

Hope’s been writing about games for about a decade, starting out way back when on the Australian Nintendo fan site Since then, she’s talked far too much about games and tech for publications such as Techlife, Byteside, IGN, and GameSpot. Of course there’s also here at PC Gamer, where she gets to indulge her inner hardware nerd with news and reviews. You can usually find Hope fawning over some art, tech, or likely a wonderful combination of them both and where relevant she’ll share them with you here. When she’s not writing about the amazing creations of others, she’s working on what she hopes will one day be her own. You can find her fictional chill out ambient far future sci-fi radio show/album/listening experience podcast right here. No, she’s not kidding.