The good news is that GameOver Zeus might be down for the count. This massive collection of infected computers - or botnet - secretly tricked your computer into doing whatever hackers tell it to do.
Its main purpose was to steal banking information. However, the hackers in control were also renting it out for other hackers to install their own programs.
For example, hackers used the GameOver Zeus botnet to install the CryptoLocker ransomware onto as many computers as possible. As it turned out, more people were willing to pay the hackers' ransom than was originally expected.
As a quick refresher: Ransomware is fake "anti-virus" software that pretends that it's discovered something wrong with your computer. It asks for payment to get it "fixed."
Note: A fix for CryptoLocker has been found that doesn't involve paying. Here's how to get the first-generation ransomware off of your PC.
In CryptoLocker's case, the program encrypted your files and said that if you didn't pay the hackers, then they'd delete the encryption key that could unlock your computer's memories.
Security alert: Another CryptoLocker clone wants to infect your mobile gadgets.
I've covered the subject extensively in the past, and I also covered the fact that the feds recently stormed GameOver Zeus's gates and took the botnet down. Your computer may still be infected, however, and you can click here to find out if you're safe.
Another ransomware developer quickly built a copycat that has, according to a report by Dell, made the copycat criminals $1.1 million already.
It's called Cryptowall, and I've already discussed it in another article. The ransomware works almost exactly the same as CryptoLocker, but the only way to retrieve your data is to pay the hackers in bitcoin.
Another refresher: Bitcoin is an untraceable cybercurrency that can be bought and sold without any system of tracking. This means that government agencies won't be able to track where the money is going and use that information to take down the next-generation cybercriminals.
Cryptowall is threatening, powerful, and has a proven track record of terrifying success. The only way to stay safe is to follow these simple rules:
- Never download and run unknown email attachments.
- Always keep up to date on my privacy and security tips.
- Subscribe to my newsletters and watch for security alerts as new threats hit the hacker scene.