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 The fall of Imotate ... the secrets of the world's most dangerous cybercrime network

European police said Wednesday that the international police have seized "the world's most dangerous internet crime network" used to break into computer systems.

Europol and its sister judicial agency, Eurogest, said that the illegal operation, which relied on the Emotate software, was a botnet that allows its operators to access a network of computers and control it remotely.

According to Agence France-Presse, police have cooperated in Britain, Canada, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Ukraine and the United States to infiltrate the infrastructure of Imotate, which was described by Europol as "the most dangerous malicious program in the world."

Europol said in a statement that "Law enforcement and judicial authorities around the world disrupted this week one of the most important robotic software networks in the past decade, Emote."

She added that the network includes several hundred servers around the world and has been used to "control victims' computers to spread to new devices with the aim of serving other criminal groups."

"The investigators have now taken control of its infrastructure, in a coordinated operation at the international level," she said.

She explained that what made Imotate particularly dangerous was that it was hiring criminals of the "most dangerous level" to use this "door opener" to plant other types of malware.

This included "Trojan horse" software that targets the banking sector and steals customer details and data, and ransomware that seals and seizes files and systems while extorting their owners to pay large sums of money.

Criminals have used email attachments to trick victims into opening messages by making them look like bills, shipping notices, and information about COVID-19.

All these emails contained malicious Word documents, either attached to the email or downloadable by clicking on a link within the message.

Once the user opens one of these documents, he is asked to "enable macros" that are used to save and duplicate modifications. If he does, it is possible to run the malicious code hidden in a Word file and install it on the victim's computer.

"Emotate was one of the biggest vectors that plagued companies in ransomware attacks and data theft," Jerome Belloa, a cybersecurity expert at the consulting firm Wavston, told France Press.

 The police operation "shows that the cyber criminals can be stopped", Bilwa added.
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