As we continue to accelerate towards a personal and professional society almost dependant on a digital umbilical cord, the level concern and negative impact equally increases. Zeus (the well known malware Trojan) and Ransomware are now the terms on the lips of all as they have moved through 2014 from a security point of interest to an industry-crippling threat. It is written that circa $500m of banking related financial loss and Cryptolocker ransom requests (who knows the true figure) have been paid to date by those unfortunate enough to have critical information sealed under the digital lock & key of the attacker in question, or siphoned off through a malware Trojan secret back door. But that was then, the news bulletins of the past 24 hours have been carefully crafted to heighten the awareness levels of all of a far more worrying threat sitting above us right now.
The NSA, FBI, UK based cyber agencies and worldwide cyber intelligence organisations have targeted a major global banking/ransomware threat and have shut down communication between the attackers and the currently affected platforms (and hundreds of thousands of compromised systems already exist globally). The multi-faceted attack consists of the well-known “GameOverZeus” banking malware Trojan (that hides until banking applications are launched) and Cryptolocker (locks and encrypts all data on a disk drive until a ransom is paid). At present over 16,000 UK-based computers are affected by the malware payload, but for now, with the attacker communications (command and control) site down or out of reach the malicious payload cannot be launched. However the real worry is those grand efforts are only delaying or slowing an even larger, more destructive attack, as within a fortnight the attacker communications environment could return to service and enable the global attack on any malware-compromised Microsoft Windows-based unprotected device.
For once, this is NOT a drill and now is the time for vigilance by all. Cyber-attacks are now so ferocious with the potential for personal disruption so great, malaise and ignorance have no place. First step, ensure the Windows update operating system patches that underpin your desktop and mobile devices are working and FULLY up to date. Next, ensure all anti-virus / malware signatures are updated daily (irrespective of the external news commentary the paid-for solutions of the leading end point security vendors are materially better than freeware options). Be aware of targeted emails encouraging you to click on links unknown to you or to download files you are not expecting – just don’t !! And most importantly of all (and the option many frequently ignore) back up critical files, documents, pictures onto another offline storage medium (cloud, usb key, external hard drive) – it is imperative that your key digital data assets exist safety elsewhere (to protect against the worst case data loss scenario).
The world’s leading security agencies are highlighting the critical time-frame of a fortnight to ensure all Windows-based computers are fully up to date, with updated anti-virus / malware software and formally scanned to remove any trace of the GameOverZeus/Cryptolocker malware. Fail to act over the next fortnight (on all the points mentioned) and the result could be a compromised machine at the end of that short period (with the potential for data / financial loss).
The IT, corporate and social network communities are used to prophets of doom highlighting that digital Armageddon is just around the corner. That may normally be somewhat over played on the grand scale, but if you personally lose or lock out digital information unique to you, unavailable elsewhere – the emotional, financial and professional impact may be far more than you can bear.
Act now, protect now – tomorrow may be one day too late.
Until next time,