At 12:01 EST Tuesday morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, otherwise known as the F.B.I., shutdown the servers of thousands of computers infected with the virus known as DNSChanger. The move came as a surprise to few, and had been planned days in advance. In fact, the F.B.I. had been monitoring these servers for the past eight months, and had installed something of a safety net to prevent potentially infected servers from being completely devastated by the virus. However, the court order that the bureau received mandating that they do so met its expiration date back on March 8. The bureau decided to allow for a few more months for users to be prepared for the shutdown.
Due to the shutdown, it’s estimated that anywhere between 210,000 and 260,000 computers worldwide will be crippled, and users of those computers will have significant trouble accessing their internet on Tuesday. Initially, it was expected that the number of computers impacted would cross into the millions. Public outrage over the bureau’s decision to pull the plug on these servers has been quite minimal. That may be because affected internet users are too busy on the phone with technical support, according to some experts. “People with affected computers are less likely to publicize their network outage,” Vikram Thakur, the principle security response manager at the software company Symantec, said. “Instead, they’ll be connecting with their local ISPs or computer technicians over the next several days or weeks.”
The virus that is now free to run amok, DNSChanger, is a particularly nasty variety. In November 2011, it is believed that a team of highly skilled hackers out of Estonia conjured up a scheme and conceived of the DNSChanger Trojan. The hackers manipulated online advertising so that when a user on an infected computer clicked on an advertisement, that user was not directed to the link promised, but instead an entirely different link guaranteed to up the click revenue stream of the hackers. This is known in the industry as clickjacking, and the hackers were able to amass over $14 million. They also infected over a million computers worldwide in the process, including computers owned by individuals, business, even government agencies such as NASA.
Despite the relatively minimal harm caused by the F.B.I.’s Tuesday shutdown, internet security experts nationwide still warn of damage that can be caused by the DNSChanger virus and other similar viruses. “We could measure that infections went down fifty percent,” Paul Vixie, founder of the Internet Security Consortium, said. “But at a certain point, you meet diminishing returns. Every one of those still infected machines is a danger to its owner and to the rest of us. Given how easily targetable they are, I’m worried about the 210,000 still out there.” Some experts claim that DNSChanger was not even the real threat, and that it was secondary to another piece of malware used by the hackers, known as TDSS.
In the end, many still stick by the F.B.I.’s decision, and note that the actions they took helped to prevent millions of computers from being infected by the virus.
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Jesse Stoler is an assistant editor, head writer, content developer and link builder at Page One Power, where his direction has provided dozens of employees with the insight and skills needed to make their clients rank. In addition to online marketing, Stoler is a thoughtful leader and he provides guidance to his team of fellow writers while also finding new, innovative ways to link build.
Outside of work, his hobbies include stand-up comedy, acting and rooting hopelessly for the New York Knicks. You can connect with him on Google+.