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Public given 'unique' two week window to prepare for ‘powerful computer attack’

The UK National Crime Agency has warned computer users they have two weeks to backup files and update security software to prevent significant damage.

A memo from the NCA mentioned the UK public has a “unique, two week opportunity” to safeguard against the cyber threat that stems from the GOZeuS and CryptoLocker malware families.

Related: Over 10,000 hit by Trojan CryptoLocker in a week

“Members of the public can protect themselves by making sure security software is installed and updated, by running scans and checking that computer operating systems and applications are up to date,” read the warning.

The action has been taken in conjunction with authorities in several countries and is led by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], and it has meant the network of infected computers has been weakened therefore meaning action is now possible.

GOZeuS, which is also known as P2PZeuS, has reportedly been responsible for millions of pounds worth of fraudulent activity across the globe and intelligence shows that around 15,500 UK computers are currently infected with “potentially many more at risk”.

Users are infected by clicking an illicit link or attachment that allows the malware to silently monitor activity and capture personal information such as bank details.

The second threat, meanwhile, comes from the increasingly prevalent Cryptolocker malware family that encrypts a user’s files before a pop up appears on screen and explains that a ransom must be paid to release the files.

“Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals. By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them. Our message is simple: update your operating system and make this a regular occurrence, update your security software and use it and, think twice before clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails,” Andy Archibald, head of the NCA cyber crime unit added.

ITProPortal put together a list of ways to protect yourself from Cryptolocker before the 2-week window closes.