If you haven’t heard, as many as a half a million people may lose Internet services in July. Although it sounds like a bad joke, it’s not. The FBI says that hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide may have been infected by hackers in an online advertising scam. These computers will most likely lose their ability to connect to the Internet on July 9th.
In November, the FBI, along with two other organizations, arrested several cyber criminals in “Operation Ghost Click.” The criminals operated under the company name “Rove Digital” and distributed DNS (Domain Name System) changing viruses.
The DNS system is a network of servers that translates a web address into the numerical addresses that computers use. Victim’s computers were reprogrammed to use rogue DNS servers owned by the attackers. This allowed the attackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of websites.
The hackers earned profits from advertisements that appeared on websites the victims were tricked into visiting. It also made thousands of computers reliant on these rogue servers for their Internet browsing. Unbeknownst to most people, the FBI has been using a system of government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for infected users. That system is due to be shut down in July, however, which is why there will be a sudden loss of connectivity.
The FBI is encouraging users to visit www.dcwg.org, a website run by its security partner. This website shows users if they are infected and explains how to fix the problem. To check your computer, go to www.dcwg.org and click on “Detect” in the upper left corner. A new screen with a list of languages will appear. Click on the URL to the left of your language and a message will appear that shows whether you are infected or not. If you are not infected, you do not need to do anything more. If you see a message saying your computer appears infected, you will be directed to a new page with websites that provide antivirus tools that cybersecurity experts have identified as being effective in removing the viruses.