In December 2021, Google filed a civil lawsuit towards two Russian males regarded as answerable for working Glupteba, one of many Web’s largest and oldest botnets. The defendants, who initially pursued a technique of counter suing Google for interfering of their sprawling cybercrime enterprise, later openly provided to dismantle the botnet in alternate for cost from Google. The decide within the case was not amused, discovered for the plaintiff, and ordered the defendants and their U.S. lawyer to pay Google’s authorized charges.
Glupteba is a rootkit that steals passwords and different entry credentials, disables safety software program, and tries to compromise different units on the sufferer community — similar to Web routers and media storage servers — to be used in relaying spam or different malicious site visitors.
Collectively, the tens of 1000’s of methods contaminated with Glupteba on any given day feed into a variety of main cybercriminal companies: The botnet’s proprietors promote the credential knowledge they steal, use the botnet to position disruptive advertisements on the contaminated computer systems, and mine cryptocurrencies. Glupteba additionally rents out contaminated methods as “proxies,” directing third-party site visitors by way of the contaminated units to disguise the origin of the site visitors.
In June 2022, KrebsOnSecurity confirmed how the malware proxy companies RSOCKS and AWMProxy had been totally depending on the Glupteba botnet for contemporary proxies, and that the founding father of AWMProxy was Dmitry Starovikov — one of many Russian males named in Google’s lawsuit.
Google sued Starovikov and 15 different “John Doe” defendants, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Laptop Fraud and Abuse Act, trademark and unfair competitors legislation, and unjust enrichment.
In June, Google and the named defendants agreed that the case would proceed as a nonjury motion as a result of Google had withdrawn its declare for damages — searching for solely injunctive aid to halt the operations of the botnet.
The defendants, who labored for a Russian agency referred to as “Valtron” that was additionally named within the lawsuit, advised Google that they had been excited about settling. The defendants mentioned they may probably assist Google by taking the botnet offline.
However the courtroom expressed frustration that the defendants had been unwilling to consent to a everlasting injunction, and on the similar time had been unable to articulate why an injunction forbidding them from partaking in illegal actions would pose an issue.
“The Defendants insisted that they weren’t engaged in legal exercise, and that any alleged exercise wherein they had been engaged was legit,” U.S. District Court docket Choose Denise Cote wrote. “However, the Defendants resisted entry of a everlasting injunction, asserting that Google’s use of the preliminary injunction had disrupted their regular enterprise operations.”
Whereas the defendants represented that they’d the power to dismantle the Glupteba botnet, when it got here time for discovery — the stage in a lawsuit the place each events can compel the manufacturing of paperwork and different info pertinent to their case — the lawyer for the defendants advised the courtroom his purchasers had been fired by Valtron in late 2021, and thus now not had entry to their work laptops or the botnet.
The lawyer for the defendants — New York-based cybercrime protection lawyer Igor Litvak — advised the courtroom he first discovered about his purchasers’ termination from Valtron on Could 20, a truth Choose Cote mentioned she discovered “troubling” given statements he made to the courtroom after that date representing that his purchasers nonetheless had entry to the botnet.
The courtroom finally suspended the invention course of towards Google, saying there was motive to imagine the defendants sought discovery solely “to be taught whether or not they may circumvent the steps Google has taken to dam the malware.”
On September 6, Litvak emailed Google that his purchasers had been keen to debate settlement.
“The events held a name on September 8, at which Litvak defined that the Defendants can be keen to supply Google with the personal keys for Bitcoin addresses related to the Glupteba botnet, and that they might promise to not interact of their alleged legal exercise sooner or later (with none admission of wrongdoing),” the decide wrote.
“In alternate, the Defendants would obtain Google’s settlement to not report them to legislation enforcement, and a cost of $1 million per defendant, plus $110,000 in lawyer’s charges,” Choose Cote continued. “The Defendants acknowledged that, though they don’t at the moment have entry to the personal keys, Valtron can be keen to supply them with the personal keys if the case had been settled. The Defendants additionally acknowledged that they imagine these keys would assist Google shut down the Glupteba botnet.”
Google rejected the defendants’ supply as extortionate, and reported it to legislation enforcement. Choose Cote additionally discovered Litvak was complicit within the defendants’ efforts to mislead the courtroom, and ordered him to affix his purchasers in paying Google’s authorized charges.
“It’s now clear that the Defendants appeared on this Court docket to not proceed in good religion to defend towards Google’s claims however with the intent to abuse the courtroom system and discovery guidelines to reap a revenue from Google,” Choose Cote wrote.
Litvak has filed a movement to rethink (PDF), asking the courtroom to vacate the sanctions towards him. He mentioned his aim is to get the case again into courtroom.
“The decide was utterly mistaken to problem sanctions,” Litvak mentioned in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity. “From the start of the case, she acted as if she wanted to guard Google from one thing. If the courtroom doesn’t resolve to vacate the sanctions, we must go to the Second Circuit (Court of Appeals) and get justice there.”
In a statement on the court’s decision, Google mentioned it would have vital ramifications for on-line crime, and that since its technical and authorized assaults on the botnet final yr, Google has noticed a 78 % discount within the variety of hosts contaminated by Glupteba.
“Whereas Glupteba operators have resumed exercise on some non-Google platforms and IoT units, shining a authorized highlight on the group makes it much less interesting for different legal operations to work with them,” reads a weblog put up from Google’s Common Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado and vp of engineering Royal Hansen. “And the steps [Google] took final yr to disrupt their operations have already had vital influence.”