Why Thousands of Computers Will Lose Internet Access on Monday

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of computers may lose access to the Internet.  David Pitman spoke with a local computer expert to find out what's behind this, and how users can make sure their computers won't be knocked offline. 

It all goes back to last fall, when the FBI busted an eastern European crime ring last fall. The criminals used servers to infect more than half-a-million computers in the U.S. and around the world, with malware. That malware directed users to rogue internet sites. Art Conklin is an Assistant Professor in the College of Technology at the University of Houston. He says if FBI had simply shut down the servers at the time of the raid, users with infected machines would have been left with no Internet access.

"So they came up with a solution, which was 'well, if your browser's button is pointing to this crime lord's machine set, we'll point it to a good machine set.' And they ran that service from last fall until recently, and they need to get out of that business. They need people to fix their machines."

Conklin says the scope of the problem is not that large, on a global scale. Somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 computers remain infected. There is a website for users to see if their machines are among the infected. It's called dcwg.org.

"And it has buttons that you can click on. And it will detect to see if you've got an infection. It has a button to click on that'll help you fix your site, or tell you how to fix it."

But Conklin says users have to take action before the server shutdown on Monday. After that, they will need to seek expert help to fix their computers. Conklin says this instance is yet another lesson in the importance of keeping anti-virus and anti-malware programs running and up-to-date.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...