Last chance to save your computer before Internet Doomsday on Monday (9 July)

7 Jul 2012

OK readers, you’ve been warned. On Monday, the FBI will turn off a server that’s been protecting more than 300,000 personal computers from a nasty virus and if you haven’t checked to see if your PC is vulnerable, you may find you will have lost all internet access on Monday, 9 July, aka Internet Doomsday.

In April, we reported how on 9 July the FBI is threatening to pull the plug on a server that is costing them too much but protects more than 300,000 computers worldwide from being infected by an insidious piece of malware.

The malware that is understood to have infected 500,000 PCs and Macs originated with an Estonian crime gang the FBI broke up in November.

It is understood that the cyber security team at Trend Micro’s operations in Cork played a key role in ‘Operation Ghost Click’ to help apprehend several individuals in Estonia and Russia.

These cyber-criminals manipulated internet websites and advertising to generate at least US$14m in illicit fees. Using malware known as DNSChanger, the scammers redirected users to rogue servers, which sold fake pharmaceuticals and security products, among other items.

The virus first emerged in 2007 and hijacked computers without users’ knowledge and generated fraudulent clicks on ads.

How to make sure your computer – and internet connection – is safe

According to the FBI, those users’ computers whose domain name server (DNS) settings have been warped by the crime gang’s malware will no longer be protected when the FBI turns off the server on Monday and users could lose their internet connectivity. In effect, they won’t be able to reach DNS servers or websites.

It is understood that the DNSChanger virus is accompanied by a root kit that is hard to remove and could involve users having to wipe their machines and reinstall their software.

If you are concerned your computer may be harbouring the virus, the DNSChanger Working Group has some handy online tools to detect and remove the virus.

And there are tools available from security vendors, including Norton, Kapersky, Trend Micro, Microsoft, McAfee and others, to help remove the rootkit without reformatting your computer.

Good luck and safe computing!

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years