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Internet users brace for global virus threat

posted 8 Jul 2012, 12:05 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Jul 2012, 12:05 ]

About a quarter-million computer users around the world are at risk of losing Internet access on Monday because of malicious software at the heart of a hacking scam that U.S. authorities shut down last November.

REUTERS - People around the world trying to access the Internet on Monday (July 9) may be blocked from doing so if their computer is infected with hacker-created malicious software.

The viruses were designed to redirect Internet traffic through rogue DNS servers controlled by criminals, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

DNS servers are computer switchboards that direct Web traffic. The United States has charged seven people for orchestrating the worldwide Internet fraud. Six were arrested in Estonia, while the seventh, who was living in Russia, is still at large.

When authorities took down the rogue servers, a federal judge in New York ordered that temporary servers be kept in place while the victims' machines were repaired. The temporary servers will shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Monday, which means the infected PCs that have not been fixed will no longer be able to connect to the Internet.

Some blogs and news reports hyped the risk of an outage, warning of a potential "blackout" and describing the Alureon malware as the "Internet Doomsday" virus. As of this week, about 245,000 computers worldwide were still infected by Alureon and its brethren, according to security firm Deteque. That included 45,355 computers in the United States.

Users can check if their computer has been infected by accessing the web address DNS-CO.US. They'll see a screen come up and either it'll be green, which means virus free, or red. If the screen shows red then their computer is infected by the virus. If infected, the problem can be fixed by using a free kit on the antivirus software site Kaspersky.

Information on how to identify and clean up infections can also be found on a website that a group of security firms and other experts set up:

Experts said only a tiny fraction of computer users were now at risk, and Internet providers would be on call to quickly restore service. They said they considered the threat to be small compared with more-prevalent viruses such as Zeus and SpyEye, which infect millions of PCs and are used to commit financial fraud.