About a quarter-million people may lose their Internet connections on Monday, July 9, because their computers might have been infected with malware years ago. The malware is called DNSCharger, and it was at the center of a cyber crime spree that ended last November, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested and charged seven Eastern European men with no less than 27 counts of wire fraud and other cyber crimes.
The DNSCharger malware had taken over the Internet traffic of as much as a half a million PCs worldwide at one point and redirected the hijacked computers' Web browsers to Web sites owned by the attackers. The criminals then cashed in on ads to which the Web browsers were redirected, and gained up to $14 million from the whole scheme. When it all came to an end last November, it was deemed as one of the biggest cyber crime busts in history.
The FBI even ended up doing something rather unusual during the process: it took over the network the criminals had set up and took it upon itself to keep those infected machines up and running. On Monday, however, the FBI will pull the plug on that DNS network. The Bureau had announced a while ago that its network support will end on July 9, after which computers that have not removed the malware will lose their Internet connection.
To avoid losing your Internet connection starting Monday, first of all you have to check and see whether your machine has been affected. To do that, go to this Web site. If you see green, it means your computer is not infected. If you see red, however, go here and read the tips on how to remove the malware, and resent your computer's DNS settings. Recommended services for handling DNS queries include OpenDNS or Google's public DNS service.
DNS settings are typically handled automatically by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Third-party DNS services, however, can be better and more up to date, and will also help protect your computer against security threats.
Lastly, if you run a Web site, it might be a good idea to warn your users of this issue, and have them check for such malware. In an effort to help Web publishers warn their users about the infection, Web security startup Cloudflare has teamed up with OpenDNS back in May. On the other hand, roughly 64,000 people in the United States and 200,000 more outside the U.S. are still infected despite those efforts. Those users will likely lose their Internet connections on Monday.