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WASHINGTON (WKOW) - The FBI's temporary Internet servers will go dark Monday,
leaving thousands of unsuspecting malware-infected individuals without online
Why is this happening? It all has to do with a piece of
computer malware called DNS Changer.
It started in 2007, when a group of hackers -- six
Estonians and one Russian -- allegedly started masquerading as Internet
advertisers who were paid by the click, according to an 2011 indictment from the U.S. Attorney
General's Office in the Southern District of New York. In other words, if an ad
got more clicks, they pocketed more cash.
So they figured out a way to beat the system, according to
the indictment. They created a piece of malware, called DNS Changer, that
tampered with the DNS -- the thing that takes a website address and finds the
numerical IP address to connect you to that website -- redirecting millions of
Internet users to sites they didn't search for.
For instance, if your computer was infected and you
clicked a link to go to Netflix, you would wind up at "BudgetMatch," according
to the FBI. The practice is called "click hijacking."
Once the FBI got around to fixing the problem in 2011, it
realized it couldn't simply shut down the rogue servers because infected
computers would be left without a functioning DNS, leaving them virtually
Internet-less. So it set up temporary servers to give malware-infected Internet
users time to fix their computers.
And time runs out on Monday, July 9.
(There isn't a planned attack this Monday that will shut
down the Internet; those whose computers are already infected will lose the
Band-Aid the FBI put on the problem more than a year ago.)
Who Is Affected?
Initially, there were more than 4 million infected
computers in 100 countries, including 500,000 in the United States, according to
As of July 4, there were only about 46,000 in the United
States, FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer told ABCNews.com today. (That's out of
nearly 300,000 worldwide.)
PCs and Apple Macs have been infected. Routers and iPads
were hit, too.
As of June, the United States had more infected computers
than any other country, according to data from the DNS Changer Working Group,
or DCWG, a group working on cleanup resulting from the malware.
How Do I Know if My Computer Is
You can check to see whether your computer is infected by
logging on to www.dns-ok.us.
If the page is green, you're in the clear. If it's red,
your computer is infected.
On Thursday the site got 2 million hits, but very few of
those computers were infected, DCWG volunteer Barry Greene told ABCNews.com.
Google and Facebook say they have also set up
notifications for infected users. If you type in a search term and see a message
that says, "Your computer appears to be infected" at the top of your screen,
guess what. Your computer is infected.
Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are among the other
organizations notifying customers if they have infected machines.
Important: According to DCWG, you should not need to scan,
make changes or download anything to tell whether your computer is infected.
The bad news is it can take a day or two actually to fix
the problem, Greene told ABCNews.com. That's because the malware is in a deep
section of the hard drive called the "boot sector."
"The malware problem out there is nasty, and it's impacted
society on multiple levels," Greene said. "It's extremely hard to get rid of. In
most companies, if they get infected with it, they throw away the hard drive."
If you can't do that, follow the instructions. They
include backing up your files and reinstalling your operating system.
What Do I Do if I Lose Internet
The FBI and DCWG recommend contacting your Internet
service provider. They'll be able to give you instructions on what to do
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