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October 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Microsoft closes Kelihos botnet case

Microsoft has reached a settlement with the man it had believed was responsible for the Kelihos botnet, marking the close of the case.

As part of the agreement with Andrey N. Sabelnikov, a citizen of Russia who lives in St. Petersburg, Microsoft agreed to jointly issue a statement with Sabelnikov that says, in part: “The parties have come to an understanding that Mr. Sabelnikov wrote code that was used in the Kelihos botnet code, but the programmer is not the operator of the botnet or involved in its activities,” according to an official Microsoft blog post.

Botnets are networks of virus-infected computers that can send out spam or viruses. The Kelihos botnet infected at least 41,000 computers worldwide, according to Microsoft, and infected Internet users’ computers with malicious software that allowed the botnet to surreptitiously control a person’s computer and use it for a variety of illegal activities, including sending out billions of spam messages, harvesting users’ personal information (such as e-mails and passwords), fraudulent stock scams and, in some instances, websites promoting the sexual exploitation of children.

Microsoft filed its civil case in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia in September 2011 after it took down the Kelihos botnet.

In October, Microsoft settled with two of the defendants in the case — Dominique Alexander Piatti and his company, dotFREE Group SRO.

In January, Microsoft filed an amended complaint accusing Sabelnikov of writing the code for and either creating or participating in creating, the Kelihos malware. Microsoft also alleged that Sabelnikov used the malware to control, operate, maintain and grow the Kelihos botnet.

Today, Microsoft said the case is now officially closed following the settlement with Sabelnikov.

Their full joint statement, posted in the Microsoft blog, says:

Microsoft and St. Petersburg software programmer Andrey Sabelnikov have entered into a Settlement Agreement in the matter of Microsoft v. Sabelnikov. During the negotiations, after reviewing the evidence provided by Microsoft and engaging in discussions, the parties have come to an understanding that Mr. Sabelnikov wrote code that was used in the Kelihos botnet code, but the programmer is not the operator of the botnet or involved in its activities. After a review and understanding of all of the details of the case, the parties were able to enter into a confidential settlement agreement in this matter, which resolves the dispute between the parties.

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