Although the theft actually goes back to 2009, it was only now that the Department of Justice unsealed indictments made by a federal grand jury in 2012 in which nine people including six Ukrainians and a Russian were charged with using malware to steal passwords, account numbers and other information enabling the hackers to steal millions of dollars from American banks. The particular malware that was used is called “Zeus” and has been used for years by hackers to get access to passwords and account numbers which, in turn, enabled the hackers to log on to their victims’ online banking accounts. The Zeus malware is particularly effective and allowed the hackers to overcome the two-factor identification systems used by the banks. The funds stolen were wired to other banks in America where co-conspirators would withdraw the money and wire the money back to Eastern Europe.
The Zeus malware is spread through phishing, which means that the hackers and identity thieves send emails luring their victims to click on infected links or download infected attachments that appear to be legitimate, but in fact, contain the malware. The malware then enables the hacker to steal all of the personal banking information from the victim’s computer that they need in order to access their accounts. So the lesson is clear. Don’t click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. Also, it is important to have anti-virus and anti-malware software on all of your computers, smartphones and other electronic devices. However, don’t depend on the anti-virus software and anti-malware software to do your thinking for you. Security software is helpful, particularly if they are kept up to date with the latest security patches, however, they are never 100% effective against the latest malware.