If the hackers didn’t get me, the plugs just might
Blame the FBI or a global hacking operation, but it seems I was an early victim – maybe Australia’s first - of a malware epidemic which reportedly hit hundreds of thousands of computers world-wide this week.
Well it’s all very complicated and not really the FBI’s fault despite what Clive Palmer might say about world domination plots by the Bureau (or was it the CIA?) in league with the Greens.
Clive admitted he was just kidding after he made the outlandish claim a couple of months ago, but I’m not, and the threat to our computers is deadly serious. Just ask my Mac. I lost all internet connectivity on Sunday afternoon, 24 hours earlier than the time the Malware called DNS Changer was predicted to strike and before I had heard any warnings.
Apparently it all started back in 2007, when a group of hackers - six Estonians and one Russian - allegedly started masquerading as Internet advertisers who were paid by the click, according to a 2011 indictment from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.
If an ad got more clicks, they pocketed more cash by the millions, and it’s called “click hijacking”.
With the DNS changer, millions of Internet users were being directed to sites they hadn’t searched for, without any obvious indication - which could have made a great excuse if your partner found any dubious sites in your search history…. (Wasn’t me Dear, just those bloody click hijackers…)
But the FBI figured out a way to beat them at their game. Once they got around to fixing the problem in 2011, they realized they couldn’t simply shut down the rogue servers because infected computers would be left without a functioning DNS, leaving them virtually Internet-less. So it set up temporary servers to give malware-infected Internet users time to fix their computers.
And that time ran out on Monday, July 9.
Whew, if you’re confused so was I when my trusty little Mac suddenly refused to do its thing last Sunday and I knew we were both expecting a busy week ahead.
But I called my service provider who also didn’t seem to be aware of the impending world computer crash and in a scene straight out of the TV comedy Mumbai Calling, ‘Rachandra’ set about instructing me how to ‘reconfigure my DNS’ (which might as well have been my DNA).
Pretty soon I was longing for the days of Remington typewriters, linotypes and hot metal, which all old newspaper men still have in their veins. Back then, the only tech knowledge needed was how to change a typewriter ribbon.
Nothing seemed to work including plugging and unplugging every connection on the modem and the phone line splitter, which also terminated my connection with Rachandra in Mumbai.
If anything, I come from a long line of non-quitters so left to my own devices I went through all the reconfiguration steps again – or the ones I could remember.
Just when all seemed lost and readers would have to do without any pearls of wisdom from me this week, the little green lights winked silently from the modem and then settled down as if to say, “We had you going for a while there”.
Suddenly the emails started pouring in and zooming out. We were re-connected with the world so I rang Rachandra again to share the good news. Maybe I was a world first and helped prepare her for a flood of calls as DNS Changer clicked in and computers took time out.
And in case you are wondering, the date is not April 1 and all this is true, every word.
So lookout, click hijacking could be coming to a computer near you. And be warned, it’s scary…
You can check if your computer has been infected here http://dns-ok.gov.au
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