Money Minute: Microsoft Knocks Out Botnet; the Good and Bad of Bitcoin

Microsoft goes after the bad guys. That and other top money stories you need to know Friday.

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer News Conference At New Store Opening
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft (MSFT) thinks that it has cut the cord on a group of European computer bandits. This gang operated what's known as a "botnet," which links together more than 2 million hijacked computers and then fraudulently bills online advertisers for clicking on their sites. Microsoft still doesn't know who's behind the scheme, but it has knocked out the connection to the hijacked computers in the U.S.

Are you familiar yet with bitcoin, the digital currency that's been soaring and sinking and soaring in price? Well it's sparking lots of debate. There are warnings about the danger of the currency, from former presidential candidate Ron Paul to China's central bank. But an analyst at Bank of America (BAC) says bitcoins could emerge -- in his words -- "as a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers." And then there's this: a customer in Newport Beach, Calif., recently used Bitcoins to buy a Tesla (TSLA) automobile.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 68 points Thursday. That brings the total for the five-day losing streak to 275 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) lost 8 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) dropped 5.

Sears Holdings (SHLD) plans to spin off to shareholders its Lands' End unit, as the struggling retailer continues to search for ways to restructure its business. Sears has done this before, spinning off its hardware and outlet units. And it may not be done. It's looking at alternatives for its namesake auto centers.

We thought J.C. Penney (JCP) might be out of the woods, but not so fast. The company says the SEC is looking into its liquidity and debt financing.

And for the holiday shopping procrastinator, Kohl's (KSS) will keep all of its 1,100 stores open for 100 straight hours, beginning the Friday before Christmas right up until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.