FBI Declares ‘Gameover,’ Link to ZeuS

bigstock_Space_Invaders_Game_Over_5142602Whether they’re being ironic or moronic – most likely both – malware developers seem to appreciate a little humor when it comes to naming their schemes. One of the latest e-mail scams to invade inboxes everywhere is no exception, it seems, and the FBI has been quick to let businesses know that if they don’t keep their eyes open for a phishing scam originating in an email from FDIC, NACHA and the Federal Reserve, opening the mail’s attachment could be one of the most devastating choices in a young 2012. Worse yet, this new scheme appears to be linked to the Lord of the Greek gods – or its eponymous malware, anyway.

‘Game over’ is never a good thing, whether it means that your last ship has been destroyed and your quarter spent, whether it’s a lame and overused witticism that yet again has found its way into the mouth of Hollywood’s action hero du jour, and yes, even when cyber criminals are searching for just the right name for their latest piece of malware. While we’re not averse to debating the first two, our interest here is firmly with the latter. It seems the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation shares that interest, as evidenced by a security bulletin earlier this month that identifies a new e-mail scam, one which cyber criminals have decided to call – what else? – ‘Gameover’.

Gameover is a phishing attack that appears in the form of spam e-mails spoofing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Bank, or the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA). Like a multitude of others, the scheme preys on users’ fears and/or lack of vigilance, informing them that there has been a problem with their bank account or an ACH transaction (ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, a network for financial institutions in the U.S.). Sufficiently frightened, recipients are encouraged to click the included link, which instead of resolving the issue, instead takes the user to a malicious site where the Gameover malware is executed.

The malware has been identified as a variant of ZeuS, a notorious piece of malware which has been responsible for stealing financial information through the practice of keylogging for a number of years. Once activated, the cyber crooks can steal banking information such as account numbers and passwords.

As if that wasn’t enough…

More than just a keylogger, however, ZeuS (and coincidentally, Gameover) has an added payload. According to the FBI, “After the perpetrators access your account, they conduct what’s called a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack using a botnet, which involves multiple computers flooding the financial institution’s server with traffic in an effort to deny legitimate users access to the site—probably in an attempt to deflect attention from what the bad guys are doing.”

But wait! There’s more!

In what sounds like a novel involving international intrigue, FBI investigations have been able to trace the attacks as far as to jewelers, as the stolen funds are used to purchase “precious stones and expensive watches from high-end jewelry stores.” The crooks contact the jeweler, tell them what they’d like to purchase and inform them that they will wire the money the following day. The following day, a “money mule” – a person involved in the money laundering part of the crime – shows up at the jewelry store to pick up the merchandise. The jeweler confirms that the money (the stolen money from the spam scheme) is in their account and upon doing so, turns the merchandise over to the mule, who in turn delivers the merchandise to the crooks or converts it into cash that upon being transferred, is effectively laundered.

Wow. It really is the stuff of imagination, but even more interesting is that the FBI has suggested that the mules could be unsuspecting victims of those omnipresent ‘work at home’ schemes that we see everywhere. While the federal agency has confirmed that many of the mules are willing participants, it has also noted that an increasing number are likely people who have succumbed to these schemes and have been unwittingly recruited into laundering money stolen from victims of the spam scheme.

Be on the lookout for this one and advise your staff ASAP. At very most, it could be a story worthy of a novel. At very least, it could save you and your users plenty of headaches and lost funds.

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