Last week’s announcement of the disruption of the Zeus botnet system by Microsoft sounds like good news at first glance, but as you read more closely; you realize the complexity and sophistication of modern cybercrime operations and wonder if we’ll ever be really safe from them.
This excerpt from their press release gives an idea of the complexity of the cyber-enemy:
“In its most complex effort to disrupt botnets to date, Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with the financial services industry — including the Financial Services – Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association — as well as Kyrus Tech Inc., announced it has successfully executed a coordinated global action against some of the most notorious cybercrime operations that fuel online fraud and identity theft. With this legal and technical action, a number of the most harmful botnets using the Zeus family of malware worldwide have been disrupted in an unprecedented, proactive cross-industry action against this cybercriminal organization.” The use of the word “disrupted” is telling and relevant to me.
The Zeus Family is used worldwide to steal identities and subsequently monies in a number of ways and by some estimates may have surpassed the hundred million range and be nearing a half billion. The most recent raids by U. S. Marshalls centered on servers in Scranton, PA and Lombard, Ill. This is the first time that the RICO act has been used to try to include all the participants in this type of criminal enterprise. Google “Zeus botnet” to get the whole incredible story about this ongoing investigation and prosecution. It will open your eyes.
The other interesting point about current botnets that I want to make is that they are becoming more discreet. In the past we have been conditioned to think that a rogue takeover of our Pc would show some symptoms like slowdowns, pop-ups and the like. The more sophisticated ones don’t want you to know that you’ve been taken over so that they can do their dirty work in the background, un-noticed and unchecked. That’s all the more reason to keep your systems and softwares updated and to run regular scans with anti-malware programs.
One other caution I’ll mention is that whenever you are suspicious about a message or pop-up, don’t click on it and get off the Internet as quickly as you can. Close your browser, shut down your PC and reboot to see if the message reappears. If it does, get help from someone you trust before the infection gets worse. As I was writing this column, my wife had a pop-up appear on her laptop while she was viewing an email from a relative; luckily she called me as soon as it appeared and she avoided any serious infection.
Till next week, stay safe and send your questions to: