In late 2013, a Trend Micro report stated that during the third quarter of the year, researchers saw the highest number of banking malware samples since 2002. The majority of these malware strains sought to steal user’s account credentials and other personal information to be leveraged in fraudulent purposes or sold to other criminals.
From July to September of last year, more than 200,000 new attacks of this kind emerged, representing the highest level of this malware style in more than a decade. However, just this year, security experts identified a new banking malware sample, pointing to the continuation of this trend.
The newly discovered strain was found to be a variant of the Zeus banking Trojan. Instead of infecting users in the typical fashion, however, this sample was hidden in coding contained in a digital photo. This type of attack is known as steganography and has become an effective infection strategy, as coding language masked by a legitimate-looking file may fool security programs into allowing it access to the system.
“The variant, called ZeusVM, downloads a configuration file that contains the domains of banks that the malware in instructed to intervene during a transaction,” stated Computerworld contributor Jeremy Kirk.
Tips for securing customers’ banking information
Due to ZeusVM and other recently emerged banking malware samples, financial institutions and their clients must be increasingly vigilant about protecting sensitive information like account credentials and other data.
Financial firms should urge their customers to utilize a few best practices to safeguard their personal data, including the use of a robust password. This authentication measure should include eight or more characters and should not utilize the individual’s name, Social Security number, home-town or other easily guessed information.
Both clients and banking employees should be cautious about what activities they take part in on their devices. For instance, email attachments from unknown senders or suspicious links could contain malware. To protect against these type of threats, both parties should utilize computer monitoring software to scan for incredulous activity on the device and the network.
Banks and other financial organizations can also leverage a reboot to restore software solution like Deep Freeze to mitigate the threat of any malicious programs. For instance, if one device on the system becomes infected, the malware could spread throughout the network, creating an even larger, more widespread problem. However, with a reboot to restore program installed, administrators can restart the hardware to pre-attack settings, preventing it from spreading.