Less than two weeks before the return of CryptoLocker and ZeuS malware – Panic time?

Last updated: 05 June 2014

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is warning everyone to protect themselves against Cryptolocker and ZeuS malware before they both make inevitable returns to the web in less than two weeks. The NCA is working with the FBI and Europol in an effort to suppress the GameOverZeuS Trojan and the Cryptolocker ‘ransomware’ that encrypts victims’ data files so they can be used for extorting money in return for decryption. This resurgence of malware is timely as the tenth anniversary of malware was only a few days ago.

So, is it panic time? The short answer: no. The long answer: also no, as long as you follow a few simple steps.

First of all, to help justify why we shouldn’t panic, let’s clear up how the two pieces are related. As mentioned, Cryptolocker (if it’s able to gain access to your PC) encrypts your files and demands ransom money to decrypt them. However, there’s no guarantee any decryption will happen if you pay up. On the other hand, GameOverZeuS is an advanced form of malware than scans your PC for banking, financial details or any other important personal identity data than could be valuable in the wrong hands. ZeuS paves the way for Cryptolocker as the latter will go in once ZeuS has identified a worthwhile target.

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you’re protected from this, especially as the NCA and FBI’s finest have bought us all some time to protect ourselves as they’ve temporarily knocked out the source of the malware bots.

Step 1: Make sure your antivirus/internet security software is up to date and hasn’t expired. While there are some who are predicting the death of the antivirus, it’s still worth having as one of your lines of defence.

Step 2: Be wary of emails with links and attachments. Most phishing attacks work in this way as it’s an easy route into your PC’s system. Also, bear in mind that just because an email is from a known sender doesn’t mean it’s safe; they might not have been the one to actually send it. Be 100% sure before opening a link or attachment.

Step 3: Back-up. If you back-up your most important documents, you’ll at least avoid having to pay any ransom for decryption in case Cryptolocker strikes. Something as simple as a portable hard drive can be used for this; or you can back-up files in the cloud, which is especially useful for mobile data.

Step 4: Ensure the most important sectors of your business are protected by multi-factor authentication. The best way for a CIO to prevent sleep loss in the face of such malicious malware is to invest in a layered security approach that is both secure and convenient for its users, and the right technology for the business.

What do you think about the threat of Cryptolocker and GameOverZeuS? Let us know @Gemalto, or leave a comment in the section below.

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