The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued another warning to computer owners to check their desktops and laptops for a piece of malware that could cause them to lose Internet access in a few months if the problem is not addressed.
According to the Daily Mail, the DNSChanger malware is the result of an advertising scam launched by hackers last year, and many people still have the program on their computers without even realizing it. The FBI set up a system several months ago which used government computers to prevent disruptions for those with infected hardware, but that system is soon to be phased out.
On Saturday, PCMag‘s Damon Poeter wrote that the bureau believes that as many as half a million computers are still infected with DNSChanger, and they could lose their Internet connection by July 9 due to the shutdown of the FBI’s workaround system. They are encouraging users to visit the DCWG website and follow the onscreen instructions to determine whether or not their computers are infected, and how to remove the Trojan if it is, in fact, on their system.
Last November, the FBI joined with other law enforcement officials to break up the hacking ring behind the Internet ad scam and the DNSChanger Trojan, according to Lolita C. Baldor of the Associated Press (AP). Poeter said that they seized approximately 100 servers in that bust, and arrested six individuals in Estonia connected with the malware.
“We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because “¦ if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service,” Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, told Baldor. “The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get ‘page not found’ and think the Internet is broken.”
He added that, due to the forthcoming shutdown of the workaround program, the agency was entering “full court press” mode to try and get people to test their Windows and Mac computers, before it’s too late.
Statistics printed by the Daily Mail say that the FBI believed that at least 568,000 unique Internet addresses were using those servers on the day of the arrest. As of now, they believe that there are still as many as 360,000 computers infected, with 85,000 of them residing in the US and more than 20,000 each in Italy, India, Germany and the UK. Most of them are believed to be home-based computers.