The FBI has published an assessment of the illicit gains accrued by the creators of the ‘Gameover Zeus’ virus which has made headlines as the most potent botnet ever to be uncovered on the internet – estimating that the criminal network behind it has raked in over $100m in illicit gains.
Hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide have been infected by the Gameover Zeus virus, which allows those behind it to steal bank information, as well as separate ‘Cryptolocker’ program which installed so-called ‘ransom-ware’ on infected machines.
The devious hackers were able to infect unsuspecting web users by sending malicious attachments via emails which instantly compromised targeted Microsoft computers when opened. Once installed criminals were able to siphon off bank funds to their own accounts by copying passwords or encrypt personal files before offering to unencrypt them for a fee running into hundreds of dollars.
Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department's criminal division, said: “The criminals effectively held for ransom every private email, business plan, child's science project, or family photograph -- every single important and personal file stored on the victim's computer."
The FBI believes the ringleader of the group to be Russian citizen Evgeniy Bogachev whom it describes as one of the world’s most prolific cyber-criminals.