POSTED: Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 12:32pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Financial groups and software giant Microsoft Corp. are working to take down 13 million computers around the world infected with a virus that steals personal information.
The computers are part of a giant hacker network called a botnet and the people who own the computers may not even know their machine is infected.
"It can happen to anybody," said Dennis Simmons, president and CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Automated Clearing House Association.
SWACHA is a partner in a network takedown that so far has seized hundreds of control computers that put victims' computers to work.
The viruses are smart enough to wait for the computer user to go to a banking or credit card site and then make its move.
"The guys on the other end of the transaction, a message pops up on their screen that says that you're online," Simmons said.
Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, said in a that botnets are lucrative for criminals.
"Botnets leverage the Internet so people could commit all types of crime, so the crime could be anywhere from keylogging for account access, identity theft or just sending spam for counterfeit products," he said. "It really runs the gamut."