Brown Whirlygig Stuff

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Brown Whirlygig Stuff

Postby van » 04 Jun 2014, 03:07

Kia ora Dennis

As I tend be absorbed in my own little world more often than not I do not visit as often as I once used to. Hence I might have missed something.
What in your opinion is there to be feared about this latest viral threat which is supposed to grind PCs to a halt within the next fortnight or so? I also understand that there is some malware which may also follow on if you, as a target, are deemed worthy of the extra effort.
Is it a serious threat and if so what steps, if anything, may be taken to minimise one's exposure?
Look forward to your analysis of the situation.

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Re: Brown Whirlygig Stuff

Postby Yogi » 04 Jun 2014, 08:39

I think you might be talking about the Gameover Zeus virus, but without a name from you I can't be sure. Zeus has been getting all the publicity lately and also has been around for a long time. You are referring to recent reports from the NCA and the FBI suggesting we all have a two week window to save our computers from certain disaster.

There are many variations of Zeus in the wild but the threat is the same in all versions. Essentially the virus embeds a Trojan in your computer that stays dormant until it is triggered. The Trojan then finds all your data files and encrypts them which makes them inaccessible to you. A notice is then displayed that your computer has been infected. You are given instructions to send money to the attacker at which time they will give you the key to decrypt your files. Sometimes that works, but most reports say that after you pay the initial amount, they want more. And so it goes.

The solution, according to NCA/FBI is to buy software that will purge the threat from your computer. Thus you end up paying ransom to the antivirus software people or to the hackers. To be honest, if those were the only two choices, I'd pay the antivirus people to root out the virus and Trojan. Of course that will only work if you have not been attacked yet. Once your data is encrypted by the bad guys, it's good-bye data.

The solutions to all this blackmail are simple, if not a hassle.

    1- Back up everything off line. Put all your personal files on a flash drive or some other place that is not easily accessible by the bad guys. Using cloud storage is a great place to store things for this purpose. You should be doing this already. Thus, if all your computer files are destroyed, you have a copy of them elsewhere for you to restore.

    2- In addition to off line storage, beat the bad guys to the punch. Encrypt all your data so that they can't. Then store the encrypted files off line.

    3- If you are absolutely certain that your computer is not infected, then this is the time to make an image of it. That is a bit for bit copy of your entire operating system. Thus if your computer is destroyed by a mutant Trojan, you can restore your system to the condition it was in at the time you made the image. And, of course, you want to save that image in an off line location just like you are doing with your encrypted data.

If all that sounds like a big pain in the butt, IT IS. It might take you the full two weeks to accomplish it all, but consider the alternatives. You don't ever want to pay ransom to a bad guy so be prepared for the possibility of losing it all if you have not taken precautions.

From what I understand there is only one way to recover from a Zeus attack. That is to format the hard drive and reinstall everything clean. Having an image to fall back on makes this task a bit easier. You might also want to look into virtual machines for this purpose.

Other than the common sense things you should be doing already, I don't know how to fight against this particular virus. My suspicious mind makes me wonder how the NCA and FBI managed to open a two week window coincidentally with a global movement to Reset The Net, but this is not the place to expound conspiracy theories. Zeus is a fatal virus and hopefully you will never see it. You may or may not be able to prevent it from happening, but you can save your data.
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Re: Brown Whirlygig Stuff

Postby van » 05 Jun 2014, 02:41

Kia ora Dennis

Thanks for the explanation. Yes it is the Zeus variety I was referring to. I am somewhat puzzled given the general lack of information in this instance. Not yours! but out there in Noddy Land, given it is capable of doing extensive damage. If it hadn't been for one or two articles I'd be oblivious to it, which tended to make me wonder if it was another "The Sky is Falling!" paranoid outbreak.

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Re: Brown Whirlygig Stuff

Postby Yogi » 05 Jun 2014, 08:54

Computer viruses get a lot of attention they don't deserve. There is no doubt about the potential disaster Zeus and others like it can cause, but the odds of anyone being infected with it are relatively low. If you use common sense and have good web surfing habits, you won't need to use AV software. Then again, yours truly has been infected a time or two over the years, but those problems were easily remedied with a one time only free download of a quality virus scanning program.

Malware, which is more irritating than threatening, is a different story. I scan regularly for that because it affects the daily performance of my computer.
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