In grocery store lines and on tread mills around the country people are chatting about Conficker, often called the Conficker computer virus or the April 1st computer virus. What is it and how can you protect yourself?
Reporter Leslie Stall and the 60 minutes audience got an eye-opening education on the Conficker computer program and how computer viruses in general work on Sunday, March 29.
On a Facebook account, an internet security expert sent Stall a message from a Facebook “friend” that was infected with a computer virus. Stall’s computer was infected with the virus the moment she clicked on the link from her Facebook friend. With a second computer side by side with Stall’s, she was able to see how everything she typed, from bank account information to credit card information at Amazon.com was showing up on the second computer almost as instantly as she typed. Many in the 60 Minutes audience got their first virtual look at how easily and quickly online hackers can steal identities and private information.
Leslie Stall also explored the online hot topic, Conficker, with internet security experts. In grocery store lines and on tread mills around the country people are chatting about Conficker, often called the Conficker computer virus or the April 1st computer virus.
It’s important to note up front that Conficker is actually not a computer virus but rather is a computer program, which isn’t to say that couldn’t be very dangerous. Already it has invaded millions of computers world wide that run on Microsoft Widows by linking one infected computer with another building a large, coordinated machine that computer specialist call a botnet. The estimates vary from 9 million to 15 million computers infected with what internet security experts on 60 Minutes referred to as “a network of spies,” in computers that are “sitting there like a sleeper cell.”
*Conficker is targeting corporate and company computers.
*Conficker automatically turns off some security settings built into Microsoft Windows.
*Conficker blocks computer users from going to known web sites that offer anti-virus protection.
*So far the Conficker program has only spread and asked its’ host for further instructions
*Conficker instructs infected computers to contact a command central and there are specific instructions for contact on April 1st, which has led to the nickname April Fool’s Day virus.
What we don’t know about Conficker…could fill a computer.
No one yet knows who built Conficker, nor is it obvious why or for what purpose Conficker was created. Was Conficker created by a young Russian cyber gang or a lone basement terrorist? Was it created to steal identities and massive amounts of money or to wreak technical havoc or is it simply a big April Fool’s joke? Microsoft wants to know and they have offered $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Conficker’s creators.
“We’ve got some bad guys out there who are extremely sophisticated,” said Merrick Furst, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. “There are a huge number of machines that might be able to be controlled by people other than the owners of those machines.”
Dean Turner of the online security firm Symantec doesn’t believe that Conficker is an April Fool’s joke.
“The vast majority of threats we see today are attempts to steal confidential information. We know there’s a large underground economy where personal information is sold,” said Turner.
So far experts don’t believe that personal computers are targets of Conficker. They believe that Conficker is after corporate networks and that those that run on older versions of Windows are more at risk. Computers running on Apple operating systems or using the free Linux system seem to be safe from Conficker.