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.

It's all a bit spooky really. Picture: Thinkstock

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

Happy clicking.

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24 comments

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    • d says:

      07:35am | 12/07/12

      BUT BUT BUT…. apple fanboys help me understand this… a mac had a virous? im sure i have been told for years that mac’s cant get virouses?

    • M says:

      09:15am | 12/07/12

      Apple was forced to retract that claim the other day.

    • Mr Fan Boi says:

      10:41am | 12/07/12

      If you keep your computer up-to-date through Apples software updates you are very unlikely to get a virus on your Mac. Although with the number of Macs growing in the world of course hackers will create Mac viruses and malware. I still don’t have to pay $99 per year for an anti-virus nor be slowed down by a virus program on my computer & will never go to back to Windows in fear of viruses but yes, having a Mac you STILL have to make sure you back-up regularly and look after your computer.

    • ace leo ace says:

      08:45am | 12/07/12

      If you want to try lording it over nerds I suggest you learn to spell first.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:51am | 12/07/12

      Macs have had viruses for years.  If you look at the Mac blurb now, they don’t mention “security” but just how everything “works”.

      The only reason - and I mean the only reason - Macs were ever “secure” was because the only people who owned them were the kind of artists that ask if you’d like fries with that.

      As soon as Jobs created the hipster and gained some mainstream approval, cracks big enough to swallow Tony Greig’s shoe start appearing.

      Funny that.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      09:32am | 12/07/12

      @Mahhrat, also it was inefficient to target Macs because of the low number of users in comparison to Linux and Windows.

    • Greg says:

      09:07am | 12/07/12

      You have a mac though?  aren’t macs virus proof?

      What has the world come to….....

    • SimpleSimon says:

      09:33am | 12/07/12

      Lol. Update your antivirus software, peeps. Or, to quote Woody from Toy Story, “If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”

    • Chris L says:

      09:34am | 12/07/12

      So…. would any of this explain the problems Punchware has with posting comments?

    • andye says:

      10:22am | 12/07/12

      @Chris L - Is that the looong delay when clicking “Reply” on a big page with lots of comments?

      The javascript uses jquery, and I think that can be quite slow locating elements on very large pages. I think that is most likely the issue. There are a number of options involving more low-tech javascript structure that would probably solve this…

    • Babylon in Canberra says:

      10:41am | 12/07/12

      Soviet Socialist Censorship?

    • Beardo says:

      11:36am | 12/07/12

      lol DNS Changer infection - better keep off them porn sites mate.

      Reminds me of a boss at work asking me for help on how to remove a virus from his computer, which was effected when his wife was out of town. Us IT guys just give the nod of understanding, no questions asked.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      12:33pm | 12/07/12

      I had a similar conversation with my former GP. He was saying his computer got a virus before he could do anythng abbout it and I just commented “you’ve been going to those naughty sites haven’t you?”  He just went bright red and said “how do you know?” and I said “mate I do IT for a living” and he was a bit sheepish for the rest of the appointment.  Very funny event

    • Say it isn't so says:

      12:28pm | 12/07/12

      Firstly if you had the DNS malware on your pc, you would have been redirected to a server owned by the FBI, which was not shut down until 2pm on Monday afternoon. So that means you would have had internet connection until that time. There is no other way around it, the FBI did not turn off their servers until that time sounds like you had another virus (which sounds highly likely by the level of pc literacy) in which case it was not the DNS malware that was your problem. I hope that you pulled your finger out and either ran some anti-virus and anti-malware software, or took your pc to a qualified professional and handed over some dough for someone to think for you.

    • Mikko says:

      02:52pm | 12/07/12

      No thanks, I’ll just blame Clive or the FBI.  Anway my router was rooted, it was 24 hours ahead of the annointed time,  now it’s fine thanks. You think you clever dicks could have worked out how to get the Remington ribbons actually reversing automatically? Now that took some skill ;0)

    • Mikko says:

      03:27pm | 12/07/12

      While you’re at it you might also put the great computer skills to work searching for an acronym site which explains TIC so you recognise it when things get too serious.

    • Justin of Earlwood says:

      03:54pm | 12/07/12

      You had a temporary ADSL outage. Whoopdeedoo. Welcome to rest of the country.

      This was nothing to do with click hijacking or DNS changer.

      Seriously, the ability of people to put 1 + 1 together & come up with 4267 is amazing.

    • Mikko says:

      04:58pm | 12/07/12

      Haha if it makes a good story, go for it (TIC)  there is enough straight news around anyways. It was intended to make people aware and if that’s a crime so be it.

    • ana says:

      09:28pm | 12/07/12

      Your ADSL connection dropped out. It’s a feature. Mine does it all the time.

    • Jan says:

      09:42pm | 12/07/12

      Don’t worry about being virus proof, you can protect yourself against those , we need to worry more about being snoop proof as the government has formulated a discussion paper that will give them the right to demand our passwords and look into our phone and internet communications.  They say they are giving the public the opportunity to comment -  Have all of you seen the news articles ?  have you seen any opportunities to comment?  Have you seen any questionairres asking your opinion ? 

      George Orwell may be just a bit out with his dates.

    • Mikko says:

      11:57am | 19/07/12

      You can protest about Big Brother here. Nazi Germany would have loved this idea if they had access to the Internet and emails
      http://stopbigbrother.com.au/

    • Daylight Robbery says:

      11:47pm | 14/07/12

      If I don’t find porn cookies on a mans machine, I get concerned

      Macs OS are now a derivative of Unix now any rate. 

      Its the software updates that give me the jeebies, Ill get an Ipad just so I dont have a barrage of updates.

    • Mikko says:

      02:59pm | 16/07/12

      I only get em about once a month and they ask first, cause they usually come when I’m trying to write something or some inconvenient time - the last one was for a new version of Skype which I thought I closed, but it downloaded the update anyway. Took me a while to get the sound back but now I’m glad I did it as the picture quality is much better than before. Dunno why, but it is.

 

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