The Avalanche Network is an insanely secure infrastructure of servers capable of offering anyone who wanted to become a cyber criminal an easy platform to use to conduct “malware campaigns” and “money mule” money laundering schemes.
They were able to attack victims around the world from anywhere in the world.
On December 5, the FBI reported, “The investigation into the highly sophisticated Avalanche network, initiated four years ago by German law enforcement authorities and prosecutors, uncovered numerous phishing and spam campaigns that resulted in malware being unwittingly downloaded onto thousands of computers internationally after their users opened bad links in e-mails or downloaded malicious attachments.”
According to the report published by the FBI:
“The FBI took part in a successful multi-national operation to dismantle the Avalanche Network and along with their law enforcement partners representing 40 countries and with the cooperation of private sector partners. The investigation involved arrests and searches in four countries, the seizing of servers, and the unprecedented effort to sinkhole more than 800,000 malicious domains associated with the network.”
Wannabe cyber criminals heard about the Avalanche network through postings serving as advertisements, featured on exclusive underground online criminal forums. Once access was obtained, the sky was the limit when it came to ripping off money from unsuspecting victims.
The cyber criminals were capable of obtaining online banking passwords and any other sensitive information from the unsuspecting computer owners. They had unlimited access to the victims’ money and stole it as fast as they could.
It’s estimated that Avalanche was responsible for as many as 500,000 malware-infected computers worldwide on a daily basis and monetary losses are in the 100’s of millions of dollars.
One type of malware distributed by Avalanche was ransomware, which encrypted victims’ computer files until the victim paid a ransom to the criminal perpetrator. Another malware involved money laundering schemes with highly organized networks of money mules purchasing goods with the stolen funds, enabling the cyber criminals to launder the illegal proceeds of their malware attacks.
Scott Smith, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division stated, “Cyber criminals can victimize millions of users in a moment from anywhere in the world. This takedown highlights the importance of collaborating with our international law enforcement partners against this evolution of organized crime in the virtual.”
The FBI offers these words of wisdom and caution when using your computers online.
- Don’t click on links embedded inside e-mails.
- Don’t open e-mail attachments without verifying who they’re from.
- Use strong passwords.
- Enable your pop-up blocker.
- Only download software from sites you trust.
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date.
Each of us securing our own devices—coupled with a coordinated law enforcement effort to combat ongoing cyber threats—will go a long way toward protecting all of us in cyberspace.
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