21 April 2012


In 2011, Mark Bowden published a book called Worm, in which he described the discovery of the Conficker computer worm, which at its peak infected seven million government, business, and home computers in 200 countries.  Through the dedication of a number of university and government computer programmers, Conficker was eventually neutralized, and its creator was identified and held to account.  The book is an excellent read, not only because it defines the computer terminology it uses, but also because the narrative flows like a detective story.  Which it is.  (The image above illustrates the spread of the Conficker worm, showing which computers are most vulnerable ~ click to enlarge.)

Earlier this week, my friend Bill, himself a lifelong programmer, alerted me to the existence of a new threat.  According to an ABC News report, the malware was created by "international hackers [who] ran an online advertising scam to take control of infected computers around the world.  In a highly unusual response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users.  But that system is to be shut down.

"The FBI is encouraging users to visit a website run by its security partner, dcwg.org, that will inform them whether they're infected and explain how to fix the problem.  After July 9, infected users won't be able to connect to the Internet.  Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems."

As happened with the Conficker worm, the DNS Changer's creators have been identified and apprehended.  But their malware is still out there.  I visited the security website here, and their diagnostic tool quickly informed me that my computer is infestation-free.  The visit is quick and free, and I highly recommend that all readers check it out, and pass the resource on to everyone you know.  Clearly, not everyone is among the 350,000 whose computer has been infected, but better safe than sorry.

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