internet crime

In an era when malware and cybercriminals have pretty much become synonymous with the word Internet, there’s some good news, particularly for Windows users. A multinational operation comprising of America’s FBI, UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and Europol have successfully tracked and taken down at least one of the command and control servers for the insidious Gameover Zeus, along with the menacing and super-frustrating ransomware Cryptolocker. Despite some relief for the public, the threat and hence the on-going hunt is far from over.

A botnet and malware that mean serious business

Botnet is a threat that just can’t be taken lightly, and Gameover Zeus is definitely not an exception to this. The dangerous threat basically is a P2P malware with an ability to sniff banking information from the victims’ Windows computer and can use that information to initiate wire transfer to overseas banking accounts. The malware typically spreads through infected spam mails disguised as seemingly harmless bills, invoices or bank statements. That is not all. In many instances, the malware is accompanied by the notorious ransomware Trojan, Cryptolocker. Upon getting installed onto the target system by the perpetrator, it quickly takes user files hostage by encrypting them. A certain amount of time is given to the victim to transfer a said amount of money to a given account in exchange for the key to decrypt the files. Failure to comply to the demand within the specified time results in the perpetrator deleting the only available copy of the key, thus making the victim lose their files for good.

Some joy at last

It’s never an easy task to locate the central server of botnet and other malware. Fortunately, the collaborative efforts of FBI, National Crime Agency and Europol, with the help from various security experts, were able to nail one of the command and control servers of Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker. Reportedly, the operation has succeeded in rescuing 300,000 of the 500,000 to 1 million infected Windows computers. Disabling the central server has given the public a “two-week window of safety” to get rid of the Trojan and bolster the security of their system. An even bigger successful outcome of the operation is that the crime ring behind the botnet has been found, with the alleged Russian mastermind Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev charged with various crimes, namely hacking, money laundering, various types of fraud, and conspiracy.

The threat is far from over

Despite a successful multinational operation that resulted in the closure of one of the central servers of Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker, it’s still too early to start with the celebrations. While the botnet may not return anytime soon, the same cannot be said about the ransomware Trojan. There’s already a variant of Cryptolocker by the name of CryptoWall on the prowl, and so far, it’s believed to be far more efficient than its counterpart. It’s safe to assume that the days will not be getting any better for the Internet users.

There is no doubt that the likes of Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker are dangerous and the perpetrators behind them cunning and persistent. However, it’s neither impossible nor too hard to defeat these cybercriminals and their malicious tools. All that the users require is a substantial amount of vigilance and an updated anti-virus on their system. Vigilance involves deleting or reporting an email with a suspicious link, even if sender is seemingly a family member, a friend, or the bank. Furthermore, there’s also a need to spread awareness about the many threats on the loose so that Internet users can take due precautions to shield themselves from it in whatever way possible.