NEW YORK (8/7/08)--Credit unions looking to protect themselves from malicious software should take note of a recent incident involving a Russian gang that used computer network administrative software to hack into thousands of computers. Joe Stewart, director of malware research at SecureWorks, a computer security firm in Atlanta, identified the gang, which used malicious software to control as many as 100,000 computers from a computer center in Wisconsin (The New York Times Aug. 6). To prevent hacking, credit unions should educate their staff against installing unknown software programs, Jim Stickley, chief technology officer, TraceSecurity, told News Now. TraceSecurity is a CUNA Strategic Services provider that provides security compliance management services. Hackers often coerce users to install malware without their knowledge. Stickley used the example of an e-mail greeting card. Hackers often send e-mails under the guise of a greeting card company, asking users to click on a link to see the message. When the recipients click on the link, they receive an error message telling them they don’t have the latest software installed to view the card. The message also invites them to download software so that they can view the card. Most people opt to install the suggested software and don’t realize that it is malicious. Once the malware has been installed, hackers can monitor users’ personal information. “When you install something on a computer, you have to be so careful,” Stickley said. Credit unions can block e-mail attachments with executable files and can lock down desktop computers to prevent them from installing programs. Credit unions also should monitor computer traffic. “If you’re seeing a lot of traffic from one computer, be very concerned,” Stickley said. Monitoring traffic may be easier for larger credit unions that have a large information technology (IT) staff. Smaller credit unions, who may have only one person devoted to IT operations, will have to educate their staff against installing software from an unknown source if they can’t monitor all traffic. TraceSecurity constantly reviews the different threats on the Internet. “There’s so many different things out there,” Stickley said. “It’s awful.” Most of the threats are similar. “It’s always a repeat, just packaged in a new way,” he said.