- (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
Thousands of people will lose Internet access on Monday when the FBI shuts down a set of temporary Internet servers. For the past year the FBI had set up the servers as a temporary measure to tackle a problem caused by a piece of computer malware called DNS Changer. They had hoped the temporary measure would allow as many people as possible the chance to get their computers fixed.
The problem actually started in 2007 when seven hackers from Eastern Europe began an elaborate scam to pose as Internet advertisers. They would sign up clients who would pay them per click; the more clicks they could provide to clients' ads the more they would be paid. However, the hackers in fact created a piece of malware, called DNS Changer, which altered a computer's DNS (this basically takes a website address and connects it to the numerical IP address to connect a user to that website). Their malware redirected millions of users to sites they didn't search for, hence increasing their ad clicks, making them an underserved profit.
The FBI attempted to fix the problem in 2011, but realized that if they just shut down the illegal servers infected computers would be left without a functioning DNS - meaning they would lose all access to the Internet. Therefore, over the past year the FBI has helpfully provided temporary servers to keep these infected users online and give them time to get their computers fixed. However, those servers will now switch off on Monday, July 9, 2012.
It is believed that there were more than 4 million infected PCs and Apple Mac computers across 100 countries in 2011, with about 500,000 in the United States. The temporary fix has allowed a majority of those infected to get their computers fixed, however, it is still believed that there are about 10 percent still infected, with 46,000 in the United States.
You can check to see whether your computer is infected by clicking on this link, which is run by DCWG.
If the page is green, your computer is clean of the malware. However, if it is red then your computer is one of the unlucky infected ones.
Google, Facebook, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have all implemented measures to try and help customers check if they are infected. It is important to note that you should not need to scan or download anything to be able to tell whether your computer is infected. If a site offers you something like that then this could be another virus that could cause your computer problems.
If you do lose Internet service on Monday, then the FBI recommends contacting your Internet service provider to get instructions on what the next steps are to getting back online.