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Thousands of phones and routers swept into proxy service, unbeknownst to users

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Crooks are working overtime to anonymize their illicit online activities using thousands of devices of unsuspecting users, as evidenced by two unrelated reports published Tuesday.

The first, from security firm Lumen Labs, reports that roughly 40,000 home and office routers have been drafted into a criminal enterprise that anonymizes illicit Internet activities, with another 1,000 new devices being added each day. The malware responsible is a variant of TheMoon, a malicious code family dating back to at least 2014. In its earliest days, TheMoon almost exclusively infected Linksys E1000 series routers. Over the years it branched out to targeting the Asus WRTs, Vivotek Network Cameras, and multiple D-Link models.

In the years following its debut, TheMoon’s self-propagating behavior and growing ability to compromise a broad base of architectures enabled a growth curve that captured attention in security circles. More recently, the visibility of the Internet of Things botnet trailed off, leading many to assume it was inert. To the surprise of researchers in Lumen’s Black Lotus Lab, during a single 72-hour stretch earlier this month, TheMoon added 6,000 ASUS routers to its ranks, an indication that the botnet is as strong as it’s ever been.

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