$3m Bounty Placed on the Head of Russian Hacker

by Paul Davies, March 10, 2015

Over the past year, it is estimated that cybercrime has cost the US Government between $100 and $400 billion in terms of stolen assets and intellectual property. And now, the US Department of State are showing how serious they are about putting a stop to this kind of online piracy by offering its largest ever reward for one of its key perpetrators.

Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev from Anapa in Russia now carries a $3 million reward for his eventual arrest with 14 counts of computer hacking, money laundering, bank fraud and wire fraud lodged against him.

Who is Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev

Still only 32 years old, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is said to be the head of a global crime ring responsible for the development and execution of one of the most harmful brands of malware in recent years known as GameOver Zeus.

Using online profiles including ‘lucky12345’ and ‘slavik’, this one individual alone now carries the largest ever FBI reward for an online criminal in history, yet he is still very much at large.

GameOver Zeus

GameOver Zeus is a modified version of the original Zeus Trojan, which first came to light in 2007. It is thought that in its original form, Zeus Trojan infected more than 13 million devices across the globe, with significant focus on computers in the US, the UK and across the developed world.

Before its identification, Zeus Trojan resulted in the loss of several hundreds of million dollars, with the potential for further loss due to the new version being even greater.

Under the new name of ‘GameOver Zeus’ this new strand of the virus, discovered in 2011, uses peer-to-peer technology to embed hidden botnets within the targeted devices. These botnets then lie dormant until such time when they can access personal information or financial details, which they then transmit back to the criminal network. The GameOver Zeus virus is then able to use these details to redirect account credits to overseas accounts held by the criminals while systematically draining all remaining funds.

However, if the computer is not seen as a ‘viable’ target for this type of financial fraud, the device will be locked and encrypted, with the user then being blackmailed into paying money to regain access to their own digital files.

Thankfully during the investigation into Cryptolocker, the relevant authorities have been able to identify this new version and create a website that supports those that have been infected by the virus.

But it is estimated that GameOver Zeus has still been able to infiltrate more than 1 million accounts, with many users unaware that the virus is sitting on their computer.

Action to Take to Protect Against GameOver Zeus

At the time of going to press, the threat of the GameOver Zeus malware has been temporarily suspended by internal law enforcement agencies who have been able to disable the effects of the program. Command and control servers have been seized, temporarily halting the infestation of this virus. And though it will be less than a month before the infrastructure behind this crime is back in place, this does give users sufficient time to ensure they are not left exposed.

1. Install High Quality Anti-Virus

Sadly, there are still a significant number of users across the US, the UK and on a global basis that still do not have effective, up to date anti-virus protection on their computers and hand held devices. And without such basic protection, the possibility of being infected by this type of crime is significant.

2. Ensure Operating Systems are Up To Date

Ensure the operating system on computer is up to date and that the system itself is still being supported by the manufacturer is essential. A computer only has all possible patches and barriers to identified threats if the operating system they have is current and updated regularly. So change your online settings and ensure your operating system is updated regularly.

3. Do Not Open Unsolicited Mail

One of the main methods of infection for harmful malware is through unsolicited mail or untrustworthy websites which then asks you to click on a link of some kind. As soon as the link is selected, it is possible for unwanted programs to enter your system, leading to possibly irrevocable harm to the hardware itself, your personal data and your overall financial standing.

Using a high quality VPN like Easy Hide VPN will provide protection against a significant proportion of such viruses. But to ensure complete security, only open attachments or click on links in emails and websites from known or reputable sources.

4. Contact Your Internet Provider

If you think you have been infected by the GameOver Zeus virus, contact your internet service provider. Most victims will have already been identified by their ISP with solutions and clean ups underway. But if you are the least bit worried that you have been infected, contact your ISP and find out what action you should take.

The Future for GameOver Zeus

Currently the physical location of Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is unknown. However, thanks to the protection he would gain under Russian law, which does not allow the extradition of accused criminals to other countries, it is thought that could be hiding in his home country.

In the meantime, the FBI and national security agencies across the globe are maintaining the search for Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev and his associates, with the aim of putting a stop to GameOver Zeus for good.

It has been asked that anyone with news or information on the whereabouts of these individuals, or those linked to them, report all details to their local police station or FBI office. But until GameOver Zeus, and the people behind it, have been stopped, make sure you are protected. Use a system which will hide IP addresses from your devices and keep you as secure as possible while you are online.

While the big guns carry on their search for the perpetrators, it is up to every user to make sure they are as protected as they can be. So make sure you act now, and get yourself protected before GameOver Zeus comes back and it’s Game Over for you.