April Fool? No Apparent Ill Effects from Conficker

According to CNET there is no visible sign that Conficker has done any damage so far today.  AP reports that the worm may have gotten more aggressive in trying to contact it’s maker but that so far there have been no visible problems.

The April 1 date written in the code may have been a red herring to get everybody all excited.  When we’ve seen that nothing happened we may let our guard down for an attack at a later date.

It’s also possible that the worm might not show itself while it’s silently stealing all your valuable information or using your machine as a “bot” to send thousands of emails without your knowledge.

Several sources are reporting that infected machines have been trying to contact their “masters” for further instructions, but that they don’t seem to be getting an answer.  However, they will keep trying until they do.  That could happen yet today, tomorrow, or at some other future date.

The worm is still out there.  Millions of machines may be infected.  And the worm is still capable of spreading.  Whatever you do, don’t let your guard down.  Quoting the CNET article:

“The funny thing is that every one has these expectations that come to them from science fiction viruses. In the movies they blow up the terminal, tip over an oil tanker and bring aliens out of the sky,” said Perry [David Perry, global director of security education at Trend Micro]. “In reality, the kind of thing a botnet does is much less visible. It’s a lot more insidious of them to steal your bank password than to blow up your computer.”

Here’s the bottom line:  Keep your software up-to-date.  Use Windows Update to keep your operating system current.  Install and use a good anti-virus software.  And whatevere you do, backup your critical files.

You wouldn’t leave your paper files lying around where anyone could see them.  You’d keep them in a locked cabinet.  Most likely you’d keep a duplicate set at another location for protection against a fire or other disaster.  You should do no less with your digital files.

The CNET piece is short but informative.  Take a few minutes to read it and listen to the related podcast.

Conflicker 3–April Fool’s Joke or Computer Armegeddon?

Two things we know for sure.  Conflicker 3, the latest computer “worm” has infected millions of computers and it’s going to do something this Wednesday, April 1.  Beyond that, opinions vary dramatically on what effect this thing might have on your computer.

Worst case is that the hackers who created this monster have evil plans to destroy worldwide computing as we know it.  You could wake up Wednesday morning to find that you have a blank hard drive, or that the World Wide Web has become a World Wide Mess.

Next worse case is that you might find all your passwords and confidential information compromised.  Your bank accounts may be cleaned out and your identity stolen.

Another possibility is that you computer will become a slave, doing whatever the master computer tells it, including sending out millions of spam emails.  Combined with millions of other computers doing the same thing, the Internet could be in chaos and/or total shutdown.

Or, you may just see a message saying “April Fool!”

Like I said, experts agree that the virus is real and that it’s waiting for “instructions” on April 1 but not on what those instructions might be.

According to many of the people who know about these things, the most likely scenario is that the people responsible for Conflicker plan on making money from it.  Aparently most hackers have graduated from cyber-vandals to cyber-crooks.  Rather than just cause trouble, they want to get rich.

As far as your own computers are concerned, the first and best thing you can do is run an anti-virus program.  Don’t wait.  Do it as soon as you finish reading this.  There’s no time to lose.  April 1 is literally just hours away.  If you don’t have anti-virus software, get it now and run it.  Anti-virus software is cheap insurance.  In fact, there are free programs available on the web including one from Microsoft called “Windows Defender“.

The next suggestion, and you’ve heard it here more than once, BACK UP YOUR IMPORTANT FILES! Do it at work and at home.  If Conflicker turns out to be a file-destroying virus, you’re information won’t be lost if you back it up.  Obviously you don’t want to back up your files on your hard drive.  Use an external drive, CD or DVD, or an online storage site like Amazon S-3.

If you use Windows, Microsoft has a fact sheet on the virus including a patch for your machine that they recommend that you install IMMEDIATELY!  They also advise that you enable your firewall (instructions here) and that you make sure you have “strong” passwordsx.

Last, but not least, if you’re a knowledgable computer-type person, Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for the criminals who have perpetrated this latest cyber-fraud.

Here are links to some interesting articles on the topic:

No Joke in April Fool’s Day Computer Worm” from CNN.

Could April 1 Be Conflicker’s Trigger Date? from the National Business Review

Beware Conflicker Worm Come April 1” from Yahoo

Internet Worm Set to Change Tactics April 1” from MSNBC

Alert:  April 1 Conflicker Computer Worm” from CNN by way of CBS News.