What is Zeus Trojan? How does it Work, and How to Stay Safe?

Today, people are online more than ever before, with about 300 million individuals in the United States alone using the Internet.

While there are numerous advantages to this, there are also risks: hackers and cybercriminals are always seeking new ways to gain access to people's personal information and steal their money by employing malware and trojans.

The Zeus trojan is considered one of the most dangerous malware programs on the market has infected thousands of users worldwide.

What is the Zeus Trojan?

The Zeus Trojan is a form of Trojan that infects Windows systems and steals banking and financial information. When it infects a computer, it searches for personal information such as email usernames and passwords and online financial and banking details. The data is then sent to external servers, where the hacker can collect it and utilize it to commit financial fraud.

Zbot is another name for the Zeus Trojan. Hackers employ the Zeus Trojan to steal information related to internet banking. The hackers then use the stolen data to log into the victims' accounts and make unauthorized (though the system sees the transaction as authorized because the login information is correct) money transfers to different hidden accounts and "money mules" to hide the electronic trail and make it difficult for authorities to figure out where the money went.

According to security specialists, the Zeus Trojan had infected more than 74,000 accounts by 2009, including those from financial and non-financial organizations like Bank of America, Oracle, NASA, and Amazon. The Zeus Trojan was initially discovered in 2007 when used to steal data from the Department of Transportation in the United States. In 2010, the FBI arrested over a hundred persons in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine on suspicion of spreading the malware.

The infection, which comes in a packed installer with resources such as remote server applications and instructions, is freely available for hackers and sells for $700 to $1500. Still, the source code was released in 2011, assuring that many more Trojans based on Zeus are now available.

How Does It Work?

Zeus developed a botnet by forming a network of hacked devices in secret. The virus operator usually takes a large amount of financial information and conducts wide-scale attacks.

Zeus is a Trojan, or malware that masquerades as genuine software. It uses keylogging and website monitoring to steal passwords and financial data. This allows the virus to detect when the user is on a banking site or doing a financial transaction, allowing it to record keystrokes used by the user when logging in.

The first version of Zeus only affected Windows computers, but new variants can now compromise Android phones to obtain access to two-factor authentication.

What is the method by which the Zeus Virus infects computers?

The Zeus Virus has two distinct infection methods.

  • Drive-by downloads

Malware developers try to infiltrate websites by injecting the Zeus code into a legitimate page that users trust. When a person visits a website, the virus is automatically installed.

  • Spam messages

Hackers or cyber criminals transmit spam communications via phishing emails and fraudulent social media campaigns to spread malware via messages and social media posts. The communications look to be authentic, but when consumers click on the link in the message or email, they are taken to a malicious website. Zeus is a robust and efficient botnet that has been programmed to access social media and email login credentials, allowing the malicious botnet to send spam messages from legitimate sources, increasing the chances of infecting victims.

What Does It Do to Computers?

When the Zeus trojan infects your system, it joins a Zeus botnet through your device, allowing it to steal information and exploit your device for phishing and other online activities without your knowledge. The Zeus botnets may identify when you enter sensitive information such as banking details or passwords via keylogging and website monitoring and then exploit that information to steal your money.

There are even Zeus trojan variants tailored to attack mobile devices nowadays, attempting to obtain access to two-factor authentication and bypassing even more advanced security measures used by more tech-savvy users. You might not even realize your gadget is infected until it's too late, and hackers could use it to deceive others for months or even years.

What's the difference between Gameover ZeuS and Zeus?

After the original Zeus source code was made public in 2011, various pieces of malware were created on its foundations, including Gameover Zeus. Gameover ZeuS, unlike its predecessor, had an encrypted peer-to-peer botnet structure, making it far more difficult for law enforcement to decipher.

The new Zeus botnet was also used to transmit the dangerous CryptoLocker malware, in addition to banking crime. After falling for phishing emails, victims would unwittingly join the botnet. Their machines were infected with ransomware after they were connected. In 2014, a worldwide cybersecurity operation known as Operation Tovar decrypted Gameover ZeuS, resulting in the public release of the CryptoLocker decryption keys for free. Despite this, the ransomware perpetrators were able to make off with around $3 million in ransom money.

That's also the sum the FBI is presently offering in exchange for information leading to the arrest of the individual they believe is behind Gameover Zeus.

Who is Zeus Trojan's intended victim?

As we briefly indicated at the outset, the Zeus trojan is primarily meant to infect devices that run the Windows operating system, so if you have a PC, laptop, or desktop computer, you are the most vulnerable.

Since its inception, the virus has infected over 3.6 million computers in the United States alone, and the Trojan has managed to survive despite ever-improving protection systems in place. And don't assume it's just a problem for individuals who don't know how to keep their computers safe. The virus has infiltrated millions of ordinary users' computers and the networks of major corporations such as Amazon, Bank of America, and even NASA.

How can the Zeus Trojan be avoided?

Spam emails and phishing scams are the most prevalent ways for Zeus malware to spread. Keep in mind that many of these messages may appear to be originating from reputable sources. A little caution can help you avoid getting the Zeus virus on your computer.

  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

  • Be especially cautious while receiving unexpected emails. Think twice before clicking a link if you receive a message asking you to do so. Are you familiar with the sender? Is there anything else about the email that stands out? Keep an eye out for misspellings or unusual sender email addresses. One of the easiest ways for hackers to spread Zeus malware is through phishing assaults.

  • Do not click on internet advertisements. While most online advertisements are simply unpleasant, others can be dangerous. Malvertising, or malicious advertising, is another way for malware to spread. Hackers generate fake advertisements and infect anyone who clicks on them. Some of them can even start a virus download as soon as you visit a page where they exist. That's why installing an ad blocker is a smart idea; if your browser doesn't display your ads, you're less likely to get infected with the Zeus virus.

  • Only use official sites to download licensed software. If you stay away from unapproved or unlicensed software, your chances of having a Trojan are considerably reduced. Torrents are appealing, but you can't be confident that what you're obtaining isn't infected with the virus.

  • Using a password manager is a good idea, but don't save your master password. A good password manager secures your passwords and assists you in creating difficult-to-crack passwords. If your master password is hijacked by malware like Citadel, all of your passwords are at risk. Memorize it.