A network of 50,000 remote-controlled zombie computers, which were programmed to automatically click ads, has been shut down, brag Panda Software and RSA Security. Panda says the central server sending instructions to the zombies, which were infected with the Clickbot.A virus, has been taken offline as a result of the two companies' work.
The companies' story reflects an example of what's going on in a lot of dark little corners of the Web. Fraudsters set up a number of Web sites, sign up to be affilates of legit contextual ad networks (Panda didn't name names), and then set the bots to work clicking away while they pocket the revenue-share proceeds.
Luis Corrons, head of PandaLabs, says: "Botnets are part of the cyber-crime business model, as they are normally hired or sold to third parties to carry out malicious actions such as sending spam, stealing confidential data or installing other types of malware. This particular case represents a variant of that model, as it seems that bot authors are obtaining financial benefits directly, swindling companies that pay for each click. The fact that companies pay a certain amount of money for each click on their ads, combined with the number of bots involved in the swindle, gives an idea of the huge proportions of this fraud."