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MS puts up $250K bounty for Conficker author

Zombie masterminds wanted undead or alive

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Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the virus writers behind the infamous Conficker (Downadup) worm.

The bounty, announced Thursday, represents a revival of Microsoft's mothballed Anti-virus Reward Program, launched in 2003 and virtually moribund since 2004.

In 2003, Redmond put up a $250,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the virus writers behind the infamous SoBig and Blaster worms. It extend this offer to other examples of malware, but there's only ever been one payout.

Erstwhile college friends of German VXer Sven Jaschan, who was convicted of writing the Sasser worm, picked up a $250,000 payout for their efforts.

Conficker has infected 10 million computers, going by recent estimates, so it's no great surprise to find that Microsoft has reactivated the program. Even if it doesn't lead to any arrests, the possibility of betrayal will give the authors of the worm pause for thought before they activate the monster botnet their malware has established.

In related news, Microsoft is partnering with security researchers, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and operators within the domain name system to disable domains used by Conficker. Infected machines are programmed to dial into a constantly varying pre-programmed range of servers every day in order to obtain instructions.

Seperately OpenDNS rolled out a Conficker tracking and blocking scheme earlier this week. ®

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