ZeuS Confronts the Passage of Time

Wayne Rash

In the Greek tragedy, 'Prometheus Bound,' Prometheus was pointing out that even the great Zeus was subject to the wearing of time, and would one day be vanquished by it. So, too, will the ZeuS trojan feel the affects of time. Prometheus knew about the weakness of Zeus when he said, 'Time in its aging course teaches all things.' When he said this in the Greek tragedy, 'Prometheus Bound,' he was pointing out that even the great Zeus was subject to the wearing of time, and would one day be vanquished by it. These days, we have less to worry about in regards to the Zeus of those days than we do with a creation of malware writers of today. But that doesn't mean that Zeus, in either incarnation, is all-powerful or invulnerable.

Today's ZeuS is indeed a powerful, not to mention annoying, piece of crimeware. If it infects a computer, it can mimic messages from well-known financial websites. It can capture your keystrokes and pass the information it gains along to criminal enterprises so they can steal money from you. It's also being targeted by a number of anti-ZeuS security packages. As a result, time will eventually have its way with Zeus, and it will become irrelevant.

Despite the somewhat hysterical conversation about ZeuS, it's indeed possible to control it, and in most cases, eliminate it. Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool can apparently seek out and destroy ZeuS sometimes. According to Trusteer, a maker of financial security software that protects against the keylogging and HTML injection carried out by ZeuS, the Microsoft product works about half the time.

Trusteer, operating under the assumption that your computer may already be compromised, can secure your browser during financial transactions so that the keylogger doesn't work and any HTML injection is blocked. Trusteer also has a removal tool aimed specifically at financial malware, so it's also able to remove ZeuS.

Of course, Microsoft's software removal tool and Trusteer aren't the only weapons that can take on ZeuS. As you might expect, Symantec, which makes the Norton Antivirus and related security products, can also detect ZeuS. Symantec is using its global security-monitoring network to predict future targets that ZeuS will attack, and to take countermeasures. You can find out more about that in Symantec's blogs on the subject.

Meanwhile, security services in the United States and other countries are taking notice of the creators of this criminal enterprise, and are arresting them as soon as they find them. Unfortunately, the arrests have just started, so propagation of ZeuS hasn't been affected much, at least not yet.

Still, as is the case with any security problem, a series of defenses in depth is the right answer. With time, those security measures will overwhelm ZeuS and teach its creators that the combined efforts of the opponents of malware will make it submit, just as Zeus in the play, also was made to submit.

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