“Zeus Botnet” targets weakness on several levels.
First, the trojan virus is packaged in a way that exploits a computer user’s social vulnerabilities. Maybe it comes in an official looking e-mail urging an unsuspecting person to click on a link, which then downloads the malicious program, or maybe the virus is embedded into an innocuous photo being shared on Facebook, a popular social networking site used by millions of people.
People clicking on a hyper-link in the bogus e-mail or the infected picture end up installing Zeus Botnet, which then logs their keystrokes and broadcasts this information in real time to hackers stationed thousands of miles away in eastern Europe. The overseas hackers are plugged into the unwitting person’s life within moments, and eventually, they’ll begin to rob any online account they can access.
“They just see dollar signs and they’re ruining people’s lives,” said Jim Terry, the director of operational risk and financial crime for NBT Bank.
NBT hosted a free forum on cybercrime at its branch in Duanesburg Tuesday. The discussion drew interest from around the community, including several town officials and a pair of school board members from the Duanesburg Central School District, which fell victim to a hacker attack late last year.
The district lost roughly $497,000 from its account with NBT over the course of five days in December. The hackers originally transferred about $3.8 million from district coffers, but authorities were able to recover $2.5 million of the pilfered funds.
Authorities continue to investigate the case and still haven’t divulged exactly how the school accounts were accessed. Meanwhile, the district has hired a new bank for its accounts and continues to discuss its legal options to recover the funds.
Terry and other bank officials didn’t discuss specific cases of hackers infiltrating personal or business accounts. But they provided a number of methods for thwarting such attacks, mainly starting with several common sense security measures.
For instance, Terry said something as simple as keeping computer virus software up to date and turning off a machine when it’s idle can help reduce the risk of exploitation. Also being aware of hacker trends, scrutinizing the validity of sites visited online and using a single machine specifically for online banking can prevent malicious software from being installed on a computer.
“Key number one is knowing what risks are out there,” he said.
Cecilia Tkaczyk, a school board member attending the forum, said some of the information was enlightening. But overall, she said the discussion offered no real solutions to the district as it tries to rebound from the devastating theft.
“I don’t think we’ve learned anything that would make a difference in our situation,” she said afterwards.