Microsoft this week announced that the company's free malware cleaning tool has removed the Zeus virus from 275,000 Windows computers in less than 7 days.
Zeus is a malware software ("malevolent software") program, sometimes called a "crimeware kit," that allows hackers to create customized malware that can be used to infect PCs. Zeus is most commonly programmed to steal usernames, passwords and other information needed to get at online bank accounts.
The Zeus program has been around for several years but new variants keep appearing. Most of the time, existing anti-virus and anti-malware programs do not detect the new variants for a few days until the producers of the anti-malware programs update their "signatures" to detect whatever new threats have appeared.
Authorities in the U.S., the U.K. and Ukraine have arrested more than 100 people said to be affiliated members of a Zeus gang. The group that was taken into custody accounted for more than $200 million in stolen cash from consumers and small businesses within a four-year span. However, the gang is still in business and is still writing new variants.
Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) is available at http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.aspx
The Malicious Software Removal Tool can only remove the Zeus software from machines already infected with the virus. It does not stop Windows systems from becoming infected. If your system was infected and you removed the infection with the Malicious Software Removal Tool, the same system may become infected again in the future.
Since the Zeus Trojan continues to be revised by its creators, all antivirus and antimalware programs, including Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool, are unable to detect the new variations, which means that some infections may go unnoticed.
The Zeus malware only infects Windows systems. It does not infect Linux or Macintosh or other operating systems.