DNSChanger: Few Disruptions Seen

Bill Gerneglia

The Internet blackout has come and gone with a much smaller that anticpicated level of disruption seen by many ISPs. At midnight on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation idled Internet servers that were set up as a safety measure in their investigation of an online scam involving malware.

As of Sunday night, an estimated 211,000 computers worldwide were still afflicted by the malware known as "DNSChanger," including 42,000 computers in the United States, according to an FBI report. Those computers were cut off from the Internet Monday morning as the FBI's partners switched off the temporary servers they had been running since November 2011, when the FBI shut down the cybercrime ring behind DNSChanger.

More than 200,000 infected computers is a large number but it represents a significant improvement from where things were in March 2012. At the peak, the viruses related to DNSChanger infected 4 million computers around the world. Industry-wide efforts over the past nine months to draw attention to and combat the virus were largely successful. More than 90% of the afflicted machines around the world had been repaired before Monday's deadline hit.

Major ISP companies such as Sprint, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have been working since January to notify customers that their computers were infected by the DNSChanger program. The warnings came in the form of e-mails, phone calls, letters,  and browser notifications.

The problems began in November, when law enforcement agents arrested six Estonian nationals accused of running an Internet fraud ring that generated money through false online advertising efforts.

According to the FBI the scam has been operational for years. It involved redirecting Internet traffic and manipulating online advertising. Instead of immediately taking down the rogue servers (in effect knocking offline all the computers infected by the malware) the FBI had the nonprofit Internet Systems Consortium set up temporary servers to keep people connected.

Those servers were originally scheduled to shut down on March, but the government had the deadline extended so that more people would have time to check and fix their computers. Facebook and Google joined the awareness campaign, notifying users if their computer appeared to be infected.

According to Internet security professionals the initiatives worked quite well.

 

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of CIOZone.com and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and About.com.

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