US disrupts Russian botnet of 500,000 hacked routers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US says it has disrupted a massive Russian botnet designed to attack American infrastructure. (File photo)

The US says it has seized an internet domain that directed a Russian botnet of half-million hacked users at American infrastructure.

The US Justice Department made the announcement on Wednesday, noting that the hackers behind the botnet had ties with the Russian intelligence.

The department said it has been trying to bust an operation deeply embedded in small and medium-sized computer networks enabled Russian hackers to infiltrate computers on various US networks and easily steal data.

Dubbed the "VPNFilter," the botnet was allegedly set up by a hacking group that goes by names such as APT28, Pawn Storm, Sandworm, Fancy Bear and the Sofacy Group.

Washington has longed blamed the group for a purported cyber attacks on different governments and key infrastructure industries like power grids, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Anti-Doping Agency.

More importantly, the US intelligence community accuses the group of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election by hacking the Democratic Party and releasing damaging information on its main candidate, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

The group is also suspected of engineering a number of computer network disruptions in Ukraine.

"According to cybersecurity researchers, the Sofacy Group is a cyber-espionage group believed to have originated from Russia," read a court filing by the US Department of Justice.

"Likely operating since 2007, the group is known to typically target government, military, security organizations, and other targets of intelligence value, through a variety of means," it added.

The Justice Department stopped short of linking the group to specific entities. This is while, the US intelligence has linked it to Russia's GRU military intelligence agency in the past.

The botnet seeks to take control of home and office routers so that it can easily relay orders from the its command and control servers to intercept and reroute traffic back to them, without being detected by the users.

The Kremlin has long denied any connection to hacking attacks coming from Russia, with President Vladimir Putin saying that Russia “on a state level has never done this."

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