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Computer users warned of 2-week window to protect against next attack

An unprecedented international effort has temporarily halted the spread of what's being called one of the most dangerous cyber pandemics ever. And experts say computer users have about two weeks to protect themselves. (AP file)

An unprecedented international effort has temporarily halted the spread of what’s being called one of the most dangerous cyber pandemics ever. Now, experts say computer users have about two weeks to protect themselves.

The FBI and international police partnered to take down the malware known as “Gameover Zeus” in a global operation earlier this week.

“Gameover Zeus is the most sophisticated botnet the FBI and our allies have ever attempted to disrupt,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Anderson.

A band of hackers implanted viruses on hundreds of thousands of computers around the world, secretly seized customer bank information and stole more than $100 million from businesses and consumers, the Justice Department said Monday in announcing charges against the Russian man accused of masterminding the effort.

In unveiling the criminal case, federal authorities said they disrupted European-based cyber threats that were sophisticated, lucrative and global.

But the cyber crooks will be back. And experts say if you use Microsoft Windows, new attacks will likely resume within two weeks.

“They’ve essentially starved the botnet of its oxygen for probably two weeks so that’s a significant thing,” says Christopher Budd, a security expert with anti-virus maker Trend Micro. “A takedown of this size only happens every few years, so we have a chance to get ahead.”

Working with officials in more than 10 other countries, the FBI and other agencies recently seized computer servers that were central to the crimes, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers.

Budd says it’s critical Windows users have the most current updates for both their operating system and security software. And he says users should also download and run a tool that will remove the botnet from their computers before the cyber criminals can activate the malware.

“This is a good opportunity for people to take action not only to protect themselves from this botnet but also future ones.”

The organization Get Safe Online has compiled a list of companies that can provide the free tool to remove the botnet and other helpful information to protect yourself here.

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