Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert
Criminal hackers have created a virus that has slipped into millions of PCs and is set to strike on April Fools day. This is no joke.
So far this year it is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 12 million computers have been compromised by the “Conficker” worm, also known as “Downup,” “Downadup” and “Kido,” possibly considered the largest known global botnet.
Microsoft and others are in a 24/7/365 battle with the makers of Conficker to see who ends up at the finish line first.
None of the PCs infected with Conficker are displaying any of the characteristics generally exhibited by the recent spate of viruses, offering a remote control component and often used to host spoofed websites and other malicious fraud related activities. At least not yet.
If Conficker reaches its full potential, it will result in data breaches, credit card fraud and numerous forms of identity theft.
It has been widely believed that Conficker is waiting for its next set of updates on April 1st, to unleash the endgame its writers had in mind.
The sense among security professionals is that Conficker will unleash an uncontrollable fury not yet seen or experienced by the security community.
Conficker duplicates like viruses of old and infects PCs that are unpatched and outdated. The virus scans the Internet, seeking and infecting unpatched computers. Conficker was built with encryption pirated from an MIT researcher and has the ability to circumvent anti-virus programs.
This level of technology has the ability to slip into external hard drives, thumb drives and any memory based peripheral. When that same peripheral is plugged into another PC, that PC is also infected.
Many PCs in Asia have rogue versions of Windows, and are largely unpatched due to Microsoft not allowing updates.
Update your Microsoft Windows ASAP. Make sure you have up to date Internet security software, such as McAfee. Stay away from rogue websites and be careful what you click.
As stated in a previous post, Microsoft offered a global bounty for the arrest and prosecution of whoever created and released the Conficker virus.
Even with the security community vigorously trying to defend PCs globally, in early March, millions of Conficker-infected PCs were upgraded into a peer to peer network, which makes the botnet even more dangerous by giving each infected PC commanding authority over others. This means that every PC has the capability of running every other PC on the botnet.
The anticipation among researchers leading up to April 1st is much like that which was felt prior to midnight on December 31st, 1999. The Y2K ”bug” was considered a ticking time bomb for all major computer applications.
Much has been done to avert a Conficker disaster, but nobody knows for sure what will happen. April 1st is a day of foolery, but this year it may also be a major breakthrough for hackers, good or bad, to see who is top dog.
See Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discussing viruses in peripherals here.
I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out uniball-na.com for more information.