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Andy Morris, Solutions Lead, ACI Worldwide

If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, you will have seen the start of the biggest co-ordination between the NCA and the FBI in an effort to stop one attack; GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker. However, whilst the focus has been on the crackdown of the criminal gangs behind the GameOverZeus and CryptoLocker viruses, for many it is too late as there are already hundreds of thousands of machines infected. It’s been estimated that the financial loses will reach up to $100M, but this could jump dramatically as malware lays in wait ready for its next attack.

Andy Morris
Andy Morris

GameOver Zeus is a botnet, designed to steal banking and other credentials from the computers it has infected, usually via a link or attachment in an email. But, in the event that the infected computer is not able to give a substantial financial reward, it will pull in help from another type of malware called CryptoLocker. Instead of stealing financial data, it encrypts all the files on the infected machine and demands a ransom of one bitcoin (roughly around £300-£400).

While the scale of this operation is unprecedented, we must remember that cyber criminals are always looking for their next way to exploit the system and are constantly changing their tactics. With this in mind and the risk of huge cost implications, banks have to remain vigilant in their detection and prevention schemes when it comes to dealing with abnormal activity originating from infected machines. There are simple techniques that can be crucial to stopping criminal activity, such as monitoring for new payees, random faster payments, CHAPS or wire requests, and even online purchases that are not part of the normal transaction behaviour of a customer.

Some of the layered detection and challenge response techniques that banks typically use to help identify any irregular activity can impact on the customer experience, so it is a difficult balance for banks to get right. There is no single solution that banks use, but most will include one-time passcodes for logging onto internet banking applications or when making payments to new payees. Banks can use security tokens supplied to customers at enrolment, via SMS messages, or even give customers a card authentication device.

Some banks take a more stealthlike approach and adopt technologies and techniques that find a secure link between the bank and the customer’s device. For example, data can be gathered and used to form a DNA fingerprint that banks check current activity against. Where anomalies are identified, the payment could be declined or the customer is subjected to stronger authentication and verification processes before the payment is made.

However, it isn’t just the banks that have the responsibility of keeping their customers money secure. Customers also have a role to play. For them, it is essential that they keep an eye on their accounts and flag to the bank any activity that appears abnormal and immediately report transactions they have not made. Simple things like keeping anti-virus, software and operating systems up-to-date will help add that extra level of protection – many businesses still use Windows XP, which has been without security support since April this year.

Ultimately, banks and customers have to work together to help stop bank accounts being wiped clean by criminals. It’s a two-way relationship; banks must be sure that they are doing everything possible to avoid criminals stealing the money of their customers, while customers need to be better equipped to deal with criminals all over the world trying to gain access to their personal details.