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Sci Tech    H3'ed 3/31/09

Is Your Computer Ready for the Confiker Virus on April 1st?

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It will probably turn out to be as non-eventful for most computer users as Y2K was back on Jan 1st 2000, but there is reason to make sure your computer is updated before April Fool’s Day tomorrow. April Fool’s Day is a notorious day for hackers to unleash their work, and this year is no different. 

A computer virus, known as the Confiker worm, is set to take control of an unknown number of computers tomorrow. These are Windows-based computers that have already been infected with the so-called “Downadup” virus, which is sitting silently on their computers waiting for the magic day to arrive - April 1st. Once activated, the virus will allow the virus writers to take control of your computer, as well as to log your web access and keystrokes in an attempt to get banking information.

If you are running a Mac, or a Linux machine, you don’t need to worry. If you are running a PC, and you haven’t updated Windows with security patches, and don’t have up-to-date anti-virus software, you might want to hurry up and do that.

Microsoft patched the Windows operating system back in October of 2008, but many people do not use the operating system’s automatic update feature, and many others are using pirated versions of Windows that can not be updated. According to security experts, millions of Windows-based computers worldwide have already been infected by Confiker, and the virus will become activated tomorrow. 

The computers will link up to form a zombie-network of remotely controlled systems that can be used to gather information, or send out illegal spam or phishing exploits. Symptoms for the user will include strange computer behavior, slow response, and lots of internet access even when you are not on the internet. Also, Window's restore points may be deleted, and Windows security disabled.

So if you have Windows, please make sure you have the operating system fully updated with patches (Start > Help and Support > Windows Update).

Also, using an up-to-date anti-virus program is highly recommended. "Free AVG" can be found here (for free!):

If your computer starts acting crazy tomorrow, unplug if from the network and see if you can run your antivirus software (if you can’t, it may have been disabled). If your network cable is unplugged from your computer, they can’t get to your system even if it is infected with the virus. The key to protecting yourself though is to make sure your operating system is fully patched, and that your antivirus software is up to date.

Mac and Linux users get to relax and say, April Fool’s!

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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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Is Your Computer Ready for the Confiker Virus on April 1st?

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