Explore one of the greatest scientific mysteries of our time, the Pioneer Anomaly: in the 1980s, NASA scientists detected an unknown force acting on the spacecraft Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to journey through the asteroid belt and study Jupiter, eventually leaving the solar system. No one seemed able to agree on a cause. (Dark matter? Tensor-vector-scalar gravity? Collisions with gravitons?) What did seem clear to those who became obsessed with it was that the Pioneer Anomaly had the potential to upend Einstein and Newton — to change everything we know about the universe.
On Thursday, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, the legal and technical team that has driven the takedown of botnets such as Bamital and Nitol during the past year, announced that it has moved with Europol, industry partners, and the FBI to disrupt yet another search fraud botnet. The ZeroAccess botnet, also known as ZAccess or Siref, has taken over approximately 2 million PCs worldwide; Microsoft estimates that it has cost search engine advertisers on Google, Bing, and Yahoo over $2.7 million each month.
According to security reporter Brian Krebs, ZeroAccess began its life cycle in 2009 as a delivery network for other malware—dropping paying customers’ viruses and Trojans, including “scareware” fake antivirus packages—onto PCs it had successfully infected. But since then, it has evolved into a “clickfraud” platform—intercepting search requests from the user’s Web browser and injecting fraudulent hyperlinks into the results returned from major search sites. The botnet operators get paid through advertising networks for the traffic sent to the sites as if the user had clicked on a legitimate ad.