By Freya Findlay
Thousands of computer users have been warned today that they have two weeks to protect themselves from a powerful computer virus used to steal millions of pounds from victims worldwide.
Malicious software (malware) known as Gameover Zeus infects people’s computers without them knowing when they follow links from emails to compromised web sites or download infected attachments.
The software is used to capture bank account numbers, passwords and other personal information to log into online bank accounts. The FBI believes that Gameover Zeus has been responsible for $100m (£60m) in losses and up to a million computers are thought to be infected.
The malware creates a network of computers that spread the viruses called a ‘botnet’, from where they are able to then transfer personal and important information back to the gang in their international base.
If Gameover Zeus cannot find anything deemed worthy some strains of the virus then install Cryptolocker – a ransomware program that lock a person’s computer, encrypting all files including personal photographs, and then demands a “ransom” of about $300 (£179) within a specified time limit.
These viruses are thought to be the mastermind of Syrian-born Russian Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Bogachev who is thought to have raked in about £60m through the scheme. He is now facing 14 criminal charges in the US including conspiracy, wire, bank and computer fraud and money laundering.
The FBI and agencies in 10 other countries are now directing what are known as Command and Control (C&C) servers. These are machines that control the operation of the botnet. This means that criminals should temporarily be unable to manage the computers they hijacked until they set up new C&C servers elsewhere.
There is now a two week window in which people are being encouraged to update their internet security software and check their computers for Gameover Zeus. You can do this by visiting http://www.getsafeonline.org/nca/, a government backed organisation that has published a list of software it recommends for protecting your computer. Unfortunately, due to demand the site crashed on Monday afternoon but it is hoped it will be up and running again soon.
Your Internet Service Provider should also be contacting you in the next few weeks if your computer has been infected.