In one of its biggest strikes against cyber crooks stealing corporate and personal financial data, the Justice Department said a multi-national effort has disrupted the computer malware cited as the leading “Trojan” targeting online banking transactions in 2013, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Prosecutors unsealed charges in Pittsburgh and Omaha against a Russian man alleged to have acted as an administrator of the network, and authorities seized computer servers integral to its operation. The case offers a glimpse of an increasingly aggressive U.S. strategy for thwarting “botnets” that infect banking and personal computers worldwide to create powerful networks through which cyber criminals can engage in an array of schemes.
Among them: capturing banking passwords and credentials for use in directing wire transfers to overseas accounts. The latest enforcement target is the Gameover Zeus Botnet, which allegedly has been used to steal millions of dollars from businesses and consumers. The malware silently infects computers and directs them to reach out to receive commands from other computers in the network and funnel stolen banking credentials back to those who control the software. Researchers estimate that up to 1 million computers are infected worldwide with the botnet, 25 percent of them in the U.S. Gameover Zeus has been used to distribute a program known as Crytolocker that infects victims' computers and encrypts their files until they pay a ransom of up to $700 for a key that will unlock their computers.