Today, the US Justice Department announced a multinational operation involving actions in the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to disrupt the botnet and malware known as Qakbot and take down its infrastructure. Beyond just taking down the backbone of the operation, the FBI began actively intercepting traffic from the botnet and instructing infected machines the uninstall the malware:
To disrupt the botnet, the FBI was able to redirect Qakbot botnet traffic to and through servers controlled by the FBI, which in turn instructed infected computers in the United States and elsewhere to download a file created by law enforcement that would uninstall the Qakbot malware
As part of the operation, the FBI have requested support from Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) to help notify impacted victims of their exposure to the malware. We provided similar support in 2021 with the Emotet botnet, although this time around with a grand total of 6.43M impacted email addresses. These are now all searchable in HIBP albeit with the incident is flagged as "sensitive" so you'll need to verify you control the email address via the notification service first, or you can search any domains you control via the domain search feature. Further, the passwords from the malware will shortly be searchable in the Pwned Passwords service which can either be checked online or via the API. Pwned Passwords is presently requested 5 and a half billion times each month to help organisations prevent people from using known compromised passwords.
Guidance for those impacted by this incident is the same tried and tested advice given after previous malware incidents:
- Keep security software such as antivirus up to date with current definitions. I personally use Microsoft Defender which is free, built into Windows and updates automatically via Windows Update.
- If you're reusing passwords across services, get a password manager and change them to be strong and unique.
- Enable multi-factor authentication where supported, at least for your most important services (email, banking, social, etc.)
- For administrators with affected users, CISA has a report which explains the malware in more detail, including links to YARA rules to help identify the presence of the malware within your network.