Opportunity for holiday home owners to protect from the threat of hackers

Last Updated on June 4, 2014 by Mark Lavington

iStock_000013656730MediumInternet access via personal computers, tablets or mobile devices is an essential communication tool for all those letting their holiday homes to guests whether owner managed or let via a holiday home letting agency. Any disruption caused by computer viruses or malware is at the least a real inconvenience and worst, very costly. There is an opportunity for holiday home owners to protect from the threat of hackers, read on to learn more.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is urging individuals and businesses to protect themselves against powerful malicious software (malware), costing UK computer users millions of pounds.

The NCA in collaboration with other agencies, led by the FBI in the US has weakened a  global network of infected computers, giving UK computer owners a unique, two-week opportunity to rid and safeguard themselves from two distinct but associated forms of malware known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker.

Members of the public can protect themselves by:

  • making sure security software is installed and updated
  • running regular scans
  • checking that computer operating systems and applications are up to date
  • think twice before clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails

GOZeuS has been responsible for the fraudulent transfer of hundreds of millions of pounds globally. By disrupting the system used by the infected computers to communicate with each other, and the criminals controlling them, this activity aims to significantly reduce the malware’s effectiveness.

Individuals in the UK may receive notifications from their Internet Service Providers that they are a victim of this malware and are advised to back up all important information – such as files, photography and videos. Businesses should test their disaster recovery systems and work with their IT suppliers to educate employees on the potential threat.

Get Safe Online is providing advice, guidance and tools on its website at www.getsafeonline.org/nca to help internet users understand more about the malicious software and how to protect themselves and their computers from attacks. A number of cyber security companies have supplied remediation tools, which can be accessed via Get Safe Online, to help clean up infected machines.

GOZeuS and CryptoLocker

Users are typically infected by clicking on attachments or links in emails which may look like they have been sent by genuine contacts and may purport to carry invoices, voicemail messages, or any file made to look innocuous. These emails are generated by other victims’ computers, who do not realise they are infected, and are used to send mass emails creating more victims.

If the file or link is clicked on an unprotected computer, GOZeuS is downloaded and installed and it will then link the victim’s computer to a network of already-infected machines, known as a BotNet.

The malware waits silently, monitoring the user’s activity until the opportunity arises to capture banking or other private information, which is then transmitted back to the criminals via the BotNet infrastructure.

Where a computer infected with GOZeuS turns out not to offer a significant financial reward, it can ‘call in’ CryptoLocker, to give the criminal controllers a second opportunity to acquire funds from the victim.

CryptoLocker works unseen in the background, encrypting the user’s files. Once that process is complete, the victim is presented with a pop-up telling them what has happened and a timer appears on their screen, which starts counting down. That is the time the victim has in order to pay a ‘discounted’ ransom, currently one Bitcoin (£200-£300 approximately) for UK users.

The NCA has been working with international law enforcement partners including the FBI and Europol, as well as partners from the banking, internet security and ISP sectors.

Information on ensuring security software is up to date can be found at Get Safe Online and Cyber Streetwise

Members of the public who think they have lost money through malware such as P2PZeus and Cryptolocker should report it to Action Fraud.

Boshers are specialist providers of insurance to holiday homes and cottages. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home please give us a call on 01237 429444.

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