New Year, New Zeus

The Zeus malware virus continues to migrate and change, shifting focus from financial institutions to governmental agencies.

Brian Krebs reported Jan. 3 on his blog Krebs on Security that a malware-laced e-mail purportedly from the White House tricked dozens of government workers. "As you and your families gather to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to take a moment to send you our greetings," the e-mail said, and encouraged readers to click on the link of an attached greeting card.

When they did, their computers became infected with Zeus, which allegedly stole 2 gigabytes worth of PDF files, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets from employees at the National Science Foundation's Office of Cyber Infrastructure and the Financial Action Task Force, among others.

Social Scams

The security firm McAfee Inc. has announced its predictions for the top computer-related threats in 2011.

It turns out Apple Inc.'s iOS products are no longer impervious to viruses, particularly as iPads and iPhones increase in popularity in business environments.

Additionally, social media sites like those run by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. will be increasingly exploited for their users' habit of using shortened Web addresses — more than 3,000 per minute are created, McAfee estimates. This practice, which replaces longer Web addresses with less informative, shortened links, opens up users to being redirected to malicious websites, such as fake financial institution sites, that can steal usernames and passwords.

Hackers will also conduct sophisticated, targeted attacks based on the use of geolocation services with some of the social media sites, McAfee predicts.

ATM Skim Arrests

Federal agents have arrested two men in Washington for stealing $325,000 from ATMs in the Puget sound area.

The pair allegedly used skimmers on automated teller machines in Reton and Woodinville to steal money between September and October 2010. The men, identified as Gvidiv Mateescu and Claudiu Tudor, have been charged with fraud. reported the story Dec. 29.

The alleged theft follows an earlier arrest of two Redmond men who were taken into custody for skimming at BECU, one of the state's largest credit unions, in Seattle. In that case, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described on Dec. 28 how the two alleged criminals put a face plate over ATM card slots to capture magnetic stripe data. They also posted a camera over the ATMs, which recorded customer PINs.

The perpetrators allegedly stole $14,000 in this scheme, and thousands more from Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. ATMs in nearby Bothell.

Channel Surfing

A rise in access points for demand deposit accounts is leading to a rise in fraud, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's blog Portals and Rails reported.

The blog said Monday that more than 75% of noncash payments were made electronically in 2009, according to a 2010 Federal Reserve Board payments survey. Scams involving checks rose 19% in the first half of 2009, and check fraud was one of only two Suspicious Activity Report categories that rose between 1996 and 2009.

The astronomical use of debit cards, with nearly 38 billion payments in 2009 has specifically gone hand in hand with rising debit card fraud, which reached almost $800 million in losses in 2008, according to the blog.

California Scheming

A new law in California that makes it a crime to impersonate someone online went into effect Jan. 1, according to The crime, designated a misdemeanor, comes with a $1,000 fine and the possibility of one year in prison. Although the law is meant primarily for people using the Internet to harass others, it also applies to individuals who steal others' passwords and usernames for the purposes of fraud.

Secret Word

Computers that consumers use for banking and other tasks can easily become infected with a new virus, simply by previewing an e-mailed Word document, without saving it locally or opening it in Word, CNET has reported.

Although Microsoft Corp.'s security team spotted the virus and pushed fix updates to users in November, security watchers have spotted more incidences of the virus in "the wild," and Microsoft issued a new warning about the virus this week. CNET reported the news Jan. 1.

A computer can become infected if a user views an infected Word document in an e-mail pane. Microsoft is encouraging users to make sure they are protected by installing the fix.

Bad Sign

A new Trojan called Geinimi has surfaced in China and poses a significant potential threat to data stored on mobile devices running Google Inc.'s Android system, PC Magazine reported Dec. 30.

The Trojan, discovered by Lookout Mobile Security, a San Francisco security firm, sends location information, device identity and stored contacts to remote servers. Researchers told PC Magazine that the most important feature of the Trojan is its ability to give control to remote hackers. This feature makes it more advanced than other Android malware. Geinimi, which so far has been a problem only in China but which poses a potential threat in the U.S., is found in fake game applications, designed to look real, which users download to their mobile devices. This may threaten bank data if the same device is used to access a bank account.

The name Geinimi is a scrambling of the zodiac sign Gemini.

Apple App Suit

Apple and four application developers have been sued by a California resident in federal court in San Jose, Calif., alleging that certain apps steal sensitive user data, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 28.

The suit accuses Apple of letting ad networks track user activity based on the phone's unique identifier. It charged the app creators (Backflip Studios,, Pandora and The Weather Channel) with selling information such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, political views and sexual orientation to advertising networks.