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Cyberattacks Compromised 75,000 Computers Worldwide

February 18, 2010

Internet security firm NetWitness reports that a new type of computer virus is known to have breached almost 75,000 computers in 2,500 organizations around the world, including user accounts of popular social network websites.

NetWitness said in a statement that the latest virus — known as “Kneber botnet” — gathers login credentials to online financial systems, social networking sites and email systems from infested computers and reports the information back to hackers.

A botnet is an army of infected computers that hackers can control from a central machine.

The attack was first discovered in January during a routine deployment of NetWitness software, NetWitness said.

An investigation revealed that many commercial and government systems were compromised, including 68,000 corporate login credentials and access to email systems, online banking sites, Yahoo, Hotmail and social networks such as Facebook.

Chief Executive Amit Yoran told Reuters that conventional malware protection and signature-based intrusion detection systems are, by definition, inadequate for addressing Kneber or most other advanced threats.

The NetWitness report came just after Google recently revealed it was targeted by a sophisticated cyberattack aimed at the U.S. Internet search company’s source code and Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists around the world.

Those attacks subsequently affected more than 30 companies, according to computer industry specialists.

Google said it would stop bowing to Chinese censors and shut down its China search service if it cannot operate unfettered.

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