U.K. police charge pair with connection to Zeus trojan

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Authorities in the U.K. have charged two 20-year-olds for their roles in the distribution of the destructive Zeus data-stealing trojan.

The arrests mark the first time anyone in Europe has been charged in connection with the notorious malware, which spreads through socially engineering phishing messages and is blamed for tens of millions in global banking losses over recent months.

On Nov. 3, authorities from London's Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit, in conjunction with the Greater Manchester Police, charged a man and a woman with violating the 1990 Computer Misuse Act and 2006 Fraud Act, according to a news release issued Wednesday.

Police did not list the specific charges against the pair, only saying that they were interviewed by detectives and since have been released on bail.

Late last month, the FBI issued an advisory warning that cybercriminals have been using sophisticated malware to hijack bank credentials belonging to U.S. small- and mid-size businesses, in attempts to siphon $100 million.

Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told SCMagazineUS.com that essentially all of these cases are related to the Zeus trojan, also known as Zbot.

"Zbot is one of the most notorious pieces of malware of recent times," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security firm Sophos, said Wednesday in a blog post. "It's a data-stealing trojan horse designed to grab information from internet users, which would help hackers break into online bank accounts and social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace."

He said Zeus is a global threat and is hard to stop because of its numerous variants.

"It's worth bearing in mind, of course, that although the arrests have been in the U.K., the Zbot family of malware is a problem that has been hitting computer users around the world – it is truly a global threat," Cluley said. "If the police have made a positive step in unraveling the gang behind Zbot, then that will be very good news for everyone interested in making the internet a safer place."

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