Hundreds of thousands may lose Internet in July, FBI warns
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.
Diana Dietz is the Communications Manager at the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. Follow Diana on Twitter.