New York — Malware Monday is here, and by now you might be wondering if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people whose Internet service has been infected by malicious software. Some web users are calling the crisis overblown, another version of the hysteria surrounding Y2K, but as the world becomes increasingly dependent on web service as a hugely important tool in the workplace, others are calling today “Internet Doomsday.”
A huge part of the problem is that victims may not be able to tell right away if their computers are infected with DNS Changer, the malware in question.
“Initially some domains will be cached which will mean web access will be spotty,” said Sean Sullivan, a security researcher at F-Secure who works to protect digital content and online interactions. “People will be confused about why some things work and some do not.”
The problem began in 2007 when seven Estonian hackers attempted to redirect people’s traffic to rogue servers so they could cash in on advertising revenue. Here’s how it worked: the hackers’ servers were taking over a key web function called domain name look-up. Basically, anytime someone types the name of a website into their browser address bar, the computer converts it into a numerical value and consults domain name servers (or DNS) to find that website online. The hackers manipulated servers to redirect people and force them to view online ads. The scheme allowed them to rake in more than $14 million.
At the height of its power, DNS Changer was affecting more than four million victims. But as of last Wednesday, the worldwide total declined to around 250,000, with approximately 64,000 in the United States. The FBI arrested six of the seven hackers last year, but the effects of the scam have been far-reaching and long-lasting. So, the FBI hired a private company called DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG) to help out. Users can visit the DCWG website to determine if their computers are infected, and if so, where they can go to fix the problem.
“These types of issues are only going to increase as our society relies more and more on the Internet, so it is a reminder that everyone can do their part,” said Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, co-founder of Congress’ cybersecurity caucus. He reminded people to be wary and use good common sense when using the Internet.
If you think your computer is infected, get the removal tool here.