Hundreds of thousands may lose Internet in July, FBI warns

April 25, 2012
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The FBI is warning that hundreds of thousands of individuals could lose access to the Internet by July 9 unless they remove a malicious virus from their computers.

Last November, the FBI began investigating an international hacker ring that ran an online advertising scam designed to infect and take control of computers around the world. The virus tricked computers into using fake servers directing unsuspecting users to fraudulent websites.

“We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service,” said FBI supervisory special agent Tom Grasso in a news release. “The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get a ‘page not found’ and think the Internet is broken.”

The hackers were found and arrested; however, hundreds of thousands were dependant on the hackers’ system for Internet access.

In response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users. But that system is to be shut down on July 9.

The FBI is encouraging users to visit a website run by its security partner that will inform them whether they have been infected and explain how they can fix the problem. After July 9, infected computers won’t be able to connect to the Internet.

FBI spokesperson Jenny Shearer says the agency has been making efforts to reach those still affected by the scam and is encouraging people to use the agency website to check their computers.

“We replaced the bad service by a clean service so that people’s Internet access remained intact,” Shearer said. She said hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. might be relying on the clean service, which was never intended to be a permanent solution.

Most victims of the hacker scam do not even know that their computers are infected, though the malicious software might have slowed down their web surfing, disabled their antivirus software and exposed their computers.

FBI officials said they organized an unusual system to avoid any appearance of government intrusion into the Internet or private computers. And while this is the first time the FBI used it, they say it won’t be the last.

You can test to see if you are affected by visiting the DNSChanger check-up tools listed on the FBI’s official website.

About Diana Dietz, e-PRO:
Diana Dietz is the Communications Manager at the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. Follow Diana on Twitter.
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8 Responses to Hundreds of thousands may lose Internet in July, FBI warns

  1. Mary Hughes on April 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you for your follow up. I will spread the word

  2. Marty Manion on April 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Cathie, I applaud caution. So many scams come across our desks every day that checking things out makes perfect sense. This issue has been vetted with the FBI media office and it is a legitimate article. Diana is correct in that it is a great resource to pass onto others.

  3. Diana Dietz on April 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Richard,

    My apologies. I moved the link down to the 6th paragraph where it says “security partner”. This link is more useful as it provides the same DNS checker page with some additional information from the FBI on ways to check your system. I hope this hasn’t caused any confusion!

  4. Richard Smeltz on April 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    What happened to the letters in red that said “runs a DNS checker page” in the original article? I forwarded the Just Listed e-mail to all my agents with instructions to open and click on the “runs a DNS checker page” in red near bottom of article to run the check on their computer. Now it is not there.

  5. Diana Dietz on April 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Cathie,

    Thank you for your feedback. I was in touch with an official spokesperson at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. She says that the report is legitimate as well as the site used by the FBI to check for the virus. She says the FBI is encouraging people to check, however, it is ultimately up to each individual whether to utilize it or not.

    Thanks!

  6. Cathie Bauer on April 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Although this is recommended by PAR I am not willing to click on the link because I think such a scam should be reported publicly to the media as well as being advised by PAR. I agree with Mary Hughes….just sounds scammy. Convince me that it’s legit.

  7. Diana Dietz on April 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Hi Mary,

    This story has been featured in the news heavily for past few days.
    Here’s information directly from the FBI’s website:
    http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/november/malware_110911

  8. Mary Hughes on April 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

    This almost sounds like a scam itself. For real?

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