Coming hard on the heels of the international sting two weeks ago that resulted in the arrest of nearly 100 “RATters”, law enforcement agencies in several countries again acted together to take down two very large botnets that together number well over 1.2 million compromised Windows computers, arresting a Russian hacker who allegedly managed the powerful zombie networks. Botnets are essentially large collections of “zombified” computers that can be controlled remotely and are a favored tool of cybercriminals and hackers that can execute a variety of activities including widespread phishing campaigns to steal sensitive personal data and focused DOS attacks used to cripple websites and servers.
What this means for you:
The UK Crime Agency believes that though they have control over the botnets for the moment, that control won’t last long – maybe 2 weeks – before the zombified computers are drafted into another botnet. In those 2 weeks, the various involved law enforcement agencies are hoping to take advantage of the temporary reprieve to notified the owners of the infected machines that they need to clean up their computers ASAP. If you receive a conspicuously official looking notice from some form of local law enforcement, it might be legitimate and not just another scareware scam. Some obvious signs that your computer might be infected (and possibly part of the one of the 2 busted botnets) include:
- Websites loading in your browser that are clearly not where you intended to go, or what the search results said they would be
- Computer performing unusually slowly or erraticly, unexpected crashing or other unusual behavior
- Files suddenly becoming corrupt or unusable
The last one is of special concern – it could mean your computer is infected with Cryptolocker, a nasty bit of malware that locks your files up and holds them for ransom. This might also mean that even if you were inclined to pay the ransom to get your data back, you may not be able to, as the take down of the botnet may also result in no one, criminal or lawful, being able to unlock your files. Sadly, if you hit this point and don’t have a recent backup of your data, it is gone forever.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net