Microsoft has placed a bounty on the heads of Russian Rustock botnet operators, saying it will reward anyone who steps forward with new information to further its investigation.
The company said it would pay up to US$250,000 to those who come forth with new information that results in the identification, arrest and criminal conviction of whoever is responsible for the control of the botnet.
Although Microsoft said it has reason to believe the operators are working out of Russia, it has also opened up the reward to residents of any country, as it considers the botnet to have a worldwide affect.
According to Microsoft, the botnet had a capacity for sending 30 billion spam mail everyday. It was severely crippled after Microsoft's digital crimes unit, together with US marshals, conducted a coordinated raid on facilities across the US that were alleged to house equipment used to issue instructions to the botnet.
Microsoft released new threat data on the crippled botnet earlier this month, showing that the number of computers being infected by Rustock had decreased by about 56 per cent. Despite this, there are still some 700,000 computers infected.
It is not the first time Microsoft has offered a monetary reward to shut down internet nuisances.
It placed similar US$250,000 bounties on the heads of those responsible for the MSBlast worm, Sobig virus, MyDoom virus and Sasser worm. Of the four, it was only the 2005 Sasser case that brought forth new information. In that case, Microsoft split the full reward between the two informants who came forth after Sven Jaschan was convicted and handed a suspended sentence of 21 months.
Rustock's operators should be more than aware of the global manhunt and the legal proceedings against them, with Microsoft dedicating the site noticeofpleadings.com as a public notice of its civil lawsuit, as well as publishing quarter page notices in two Russian newspapers, which ran for 30 days.