Retailers, Distributors, Consumers + Manufacturers, Warned To Take Action Against Virus Pandemic Attack
During the past week Police forces from around the world including the UK National Crime Authority have been bombarding the attackers with defensive programs aimed at slowing down the attack which could strip bank accounts of funds.
Already computers of more than 15,000 people in the UK are already infected with a virus that could cost economies around the world ‘millions’, the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.
The Australian Federal Police have told SmartHouse that they are aware of the Virus attack and that they are working with several police forces around the world to try and stymie the attack.
In the worst cases, victims could lose access to their bank accounts which could be systematically drained by the criminal network.
The software, called Gameover Zeus, has spread worldwide but has been temporarily disabled by the international efforts of various law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police.
Recently criminal gangs got hold of over 230 million eBay records that included email addresses, passwords, date of birth and addresses.
The authorities have warned that the attack could explode in coming days and that while the malware’ has been weakened by a counter attack from various police forces there is a real risk that what they are doing to hold back the attack could fail.
Computer experts said computer users must install anti-virus software and update their operating systems to protect themselves in the short term.
The international effort by forces including the NCA, Interpol and Europol, have targeted the ‘command and control’ servers behind the virus.
Australians have been told to change their passwords after the cyber-attack was detected, police forces believe that the have a window of two weeks before the cyber gangs break through the protective wall that police forces have thrown up to protect PC owners.
The software installs itself on a computer when the victim clicks on a link in an unsolicited email or via a website.
It then sends out more emails to lure further victims, without the knowledge of the computer users, and spreads quickly across the internet.
SmartHouse has already seen several bogus emails linked with the virus, on one email from a local solicitor the criminals had copied the signature of the solicitor onto a bogus email containing the malware. When the solicitor was contacted he said that he had never sent the email.
Authorities said that the virus lays dormant until it spots an opportunity to steal personal details such as online banking information and passwords.
It then transmits this information back to the criminal network who use it to drain the bank account of the victim. If the victim does not have any funds in their bank account the criminals are then known to lock smartphones, PC’s and tablets with a SIM card until the victim pays a ransom fee for their device to be unlocked.
The Daily Mail in the UK claims that the software used by the criminals demands one Bitcoin, an untraceable form of online currency favoured by criminals, which is around $500.
The U.S. Government admitted that at least one police force has been forced to pay this ransom to release sensitive files.
Last night, the U.S. Justice Department filed papers accusing a Russian named Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev as being the leader of the gang behind the software.
The complaint claims the software has been responsible for the loss of more than $100m from individuals and a string of major companies.
Andy Archibald, of the UK National Crime Authority, said: ‘Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals.
‘By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people can stop thefts from happening to them.
Computer users who fear they could fall victim to the virus are advised to install anti-virus software and ensure their operating system has the latest security updates.
It is thought that the gang first check if a target’s keyboard is in Russian and only strike if it is another language.
The gang is targeting retailers, manufacturers and distributors.
AEV Ltd, a UK manufacturer, was hit with ‘utter disaster’ when the criminals hacked into the company’s bank account to fake two payments costing $181,000.
The criminals created two fake payment pages and tricked an employee of the company into authorising them.
Managing director Jonathan Kemp said: ‘It started out as a normal day and ultimately by the afternoon in a period of three minutes we were $181,000 down.’
Although the company was refunded by the bank, Mr Kemp said he spoke to other companies who had been hit by the scam, accumulating their losses at $6.3 Million dollars.
Stewart Garrick, from the National Cyber Crime Unit told the Daily Mail that that even solicitor firms, police stations in America and academic institutions had been targeted.
Charlie McMurdie, former head of the national ecrime unit, described the threat as a ‘cyber plague’ and warned that it could also be used to target mobile phones.
She said: ‘Once one of these plagues is released everybody will pick up on it, adapt it and people around the world will be using these sorts of virus to carry out crime.
‘It’s not just computers, this kind of malware is now being hitting our mobile phones.’
‘It can have a significant impact on individuals and companies.’