Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to make the public aware of two malicious software schemes that have already stolen over $100 million from individuals and businesses worldwide. Johnson, who sits as one of the Vice-Chairs for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Cyber Security Task Force, is urging computer users to take the required steps necessary to protect themselves from these malicious software programs. “These programs have the power to drain an individual’s bank account without them even knowing it,” Johnson said. The U.S. Justice Department has announced that anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million machines worldwide were affected by the virus’s known as Gameover Zeus which steals banking passwords and Crytolocker, which encrypts files and blackmails the users for their release.
The Gameover Zeus software has seen the most activity in the United States by hitting over 13% of all computers in the nation. According to the FBI, this software is highly sophisticated. The malware can disguise unapproved payments that are made making an individual think that everything is normal by keeping track of account balances and automatically correcting the numbers on the balances to hide its tracks. “People need to be aware of this dangerous malware. It not only can hide its tracks, but also once installed on a computer, this software has the ability to evade anti-virus software,” Johnson stated. According to the The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Gameover Zeus infects a user’s machine when they open a PDF or click on a link sent to them in an email.
An international police effort led by the FBI and security giant Symantec was able to shut down the malicious software this week, but officials with the FBI are still warning users to take steps to protect their systems. The FBI is reporting that users have two weeks to clean up their hard drives and install anti-virus software before the Russian-led band of hackers responsible for Gameover Zeus will be able to make their network operational again. According to officials with the FBI, this malware has been so difficult to shut down because it uses peer-to-peer software, meaning that even if the main server is shut down, infected computers can continue to communicate with one another and continue operating.
The Crytolocker software, thought to be linked to Gameover Zeus, is also affecting thousands of Americans and businesses nationwide. According to the FBI, this malware often comes into effect if the user is not a ‘viable’ victim for Gameover Zeus and the network cannot access their financial details. “Crytolocker locks your computer, encrypts files and demands a ransom for them to be unlocked,” Johnson explained.
DHS has set up a website to help victims remove the malware, www.us-cert.gov/gameoverzeus.
From that website, computer users can download tailored anti-virus software which has been provided for free. Experts have also warned users to back-up all valuable data and to ensure that all operating systems have the latest updates installed. Many of those whose computers have already been infected will be contacted by their internet service providers.
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