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British users: less than two weeks of safety, warns the FBI

game-overBritish computer users have been warned that they have less than two weeks to defend their computers from a virus designed to extort money from them.

The two-week window was announced after the FBI took control of computer systems used to control malware that has been stealing user’s details – including financial information – around the globe. The FBI believes that more than 15,000 British computers have been infected by the GameOver Zeus malware.

The malware itself infects systems with the intention of searching for certain files related to banking information, which the FBI believes has caused $100m in losses for the victims around the world.

Not only does the GameOver virus exploit financial information stored on the system, but it also installs the CryptoLocker malware, providing an awkward double-whammy for victims. CyprotLocker, as we’ve discussed previously, randomly adds a password lock to your personal files. When you try to unlock the file, CryptoLocker asks for a fee (typically around $300) to allow you to gain access to your own files. Really, it’s a horrible virus, and there’s no way to stop it after it has started without paying.

The biggest cause of the spread of GameOver Zeus is via email attachments. However, many victims have reported being infected after visiting a website that was supposed to help them avoid getting malware. The latter puts websites like ours in an awkward situation, because we’ll always encourage you to get an Internet Security Package like Norman’s, even though that’s the same technique that the virus makers use to infect people with their malware.

Not to put too strong a point on it, but if you want to avoid GameOver Zeus, you do need an up to date antivirus. If you don’t want to buy an antivirus, however, then your best chance at avoiding the malware comes from not opening attachments from unsolicited emails.

With the FBI hot on the trail of GameOver Zeus, it’s unlikely that the virus will last for more than a year.That said, popular viruses like these are often the catalyst for copycat malware, which use the same idea but different coding to wreak havoc on people’s systems.

In fact, sometimes the copycats are even harder for anti-virus software to find, as 50 similar pieces of malware are more difficult to detect than one very popular one. That’s why it’s always important to not just own an antivirus, but to ensure that it’s always kept up-to-date.

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