It’s been reported that a Russian computer hacker has been accused of leading a worldwide conspiracy to target PC’s with malware designed to steal and damage PC user’s information. This malware is known as Gameover Zeus and includes associated scam software called Cryptolocker. This dangerous malware has been infecting PC’s via ‘phishing’ emails.
What is a ‘phishing’ email?
A ‘phishing’ email may look official from a service such as your bank, PayPal or delivery company. They’re known as ‘phishing’ emails because are specifically designed to reel users in (pun intended) so they unwittingly install dangerous software onto their PC’s. These emails usually have telltale signs of grammatical or spelling errors within the wording. Also the text within the email will prompt you to download and run an attached file of some sort. Usually under the pretense of helping you to find your ‘package details’ or ‘unlock your bank account’. Under no circumstances should you ever download or run a file from an attachment that you’re not sure of. Official services (such as the ones described above) would never ask you to do this!
Once installed the malware would sit in the background and enable the group to steal information from personal and business PCs, along with witholding documents and photos by encrypting their contents. In the case of the scam software unless a ransom is paid within an alloted time the encrypted contents would either be destroyed or left locked with no hope of repair or release. This can end up being very costly unless you take some simple steps to protect your PC.
What should you do?
As prevention is always better than the cure the UK-based Get Safe Online is a government-backed organisation that has useful information on how to protect your PC against this type of attack along with securing against other types of malware and viruses. On their website it is said “This warning is not intended to cause you panic… but we cannot over-stress the importance of taking these steps immediately.”
Follow these simple tips to ensure your PC is kept as secure as possible:
- Regularly run Windows Update and download the latest security patches for your PC.
- Install a virus checker on your machine such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast or AVG
- Run regular system checks using your virus checker, don’t just rely on installing the program
- Back up your photos, documents, music, contacts and notes regularly
- Use secure passwords and store them away from the PC
If you do feel that your PC is already infected with malware programs (signs such as pop-up windows appearing with adverts or virus warnings) then download and run malwarebytes. There are two versions available. A premium version with an associated subscription cost which runs automatically in the background, and a free version which can be used manually to check for any problems. Again before you run any anti-virus or anti-malware program back up your information!