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Microsoft Remotely Deleted Tor From Windows Machines To Stop Botnet 214

Posted by timothy
from the because-they-can dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft remotely deleted old versions of Tor anonymizing software from Windows machines to prevent them from being exploited by Sefnit, a botnet that spread through the Tor network. It's unclear how many machines were affected, but the total number of computers on the Tor network ballooned from 1 million to 5.5 million as Sefnit spread. 'By October, the Tor network had dropped two million users thanks to Sefnit clients that had been axed. No one, not even the Tor developers themselves, knew how Microsoft had gone on a silent offensive against such a big opponent and won a decisive battle,' the Daily Dot reported. In a blog post, Microsoft claimed it views Tor as a 'good application,' but leaving it installed presented a severe threat to the infected machines."
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Microsoft Remotely Deleted Tor From Windows Machines To Stop Botnet

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  • by gishzida (591028) <{gishzida} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday January 16, 2014 @04:59PM (#45980095) Journal

    Who knew?

  • by mechtech256 (2617089) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @05:10PM (#45980219)

    This doesn't sound much different to any other anti-virus removal. Microsoft almost certainly used the Microsoft Security Essential update to kill Sefnit, as they do with so many other viruses.

    "the total number of computers on the Tor network ballooned from 1 million to 5.5 million as Sefnit spread"

    These weren't dedicated Tor nodes that were taken offline because they were being used for malicious purposes, these were infected PCs with a virus that used Tor as the communication protocol. An outdated and vulnerable version of Tor was hidden in a "location that almost no human user would"

    If a PC was infected with Sefnit and had the signature old version of Tor in the hidden location, Tor was removed because it's logically the case that Tor was just part of the virus payload. Because of the unique install directory, there wasn't even a remote chance for false positives. Publicly available tools that can be used for good or bad are hijacked by viruses all the time, and it's never a surprise if an anti-virus removes that tool when the virus specific files are removed.

  • Re:Battle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrbluze (1034940) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @05:26PM (#45980337) Journal

    Exactly this version of Tor was installed in a non-obvious and non-trivial location to get to and as a service. Microsoft asked the Tor developers "Anybody actually do this?", Answer: "Nope.". Microsoft then nuked the rogue Tor apps either through Microsoft Security Essentials or through Malicious Software Tool removal app.

    Was the botnet doing anything bad? Or was it just making Tor faster for everyone?

  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @05:26PM (#45980351)
    A spam black hole is exactly the same thing, and so is gmail's spam filter. If some things are in and some are out, then somebody somewhere made that call.

    I am actually appreciating more and more, in retrospect, how non-intrusive Microsoft was for all those years and still is. Compared to today's Internet, and the PowerBook that wants a credit card number before I can even do a software update or download XCode (since it's all linked to the App Store now), Microsoft was/is a model of responsibility.

  • Re:Exactly how???? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @05:35PM (#45980443)

    Exactly how does Microsoft gain access and remove software? Well I guess that means Microsoft has complete control of other people PCs. What kind of F@#$%^ up nightmare is this?

    Well if we read the article

    Since the Sefnit-caused Tor eruption in August, we have worked to curb this risk. In this process, we consulted with Tor project developers to help plan the cleanup. We retroactively remediated machines that had previously been cleaned of Sefnit but still had a Sefnit-added Tor service:

            October 27, 2013: We modified our signatures to remove the Sefnit-added Tor client service. Signature and remediation are included in all Microsoft security software, including Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Defender on Windows 8, Microsoft Safety Scanner, Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection, and Windows Defender Offline.
            November 12, 2013: Signature and remediation is included in Malicious Software Removal Tool and delivered through Windows Update/Microsoft Update.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is a popular antivirus program that people tout as being a good free option to Symantec or McAfee. In this case it seems it did a good job of squashing a botnet. Malicious Software Removal Tool is an update that comes monthly, with Windows updates, that can be disabled or deselected if you wish. The idea is that "This tool checks your computer for infection by specific, prevalent malicious software (including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom) and helps to remove the infection if it is found. Microsoft will release an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month. " So even if you don't use MSE or any other AV software, if you do updates, you will get the worst of the worst. Such as this millions infected with Sefnit.

    No hidden remote kill switch. No evil. The security tools did what they advertized to remove a threat, while leaving legitimate Tor users untouched.

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