Is your computer ready for July 9, 2012?

By Dale Dixon/ Trust evangelist

I’ve heard rumors that a lot of people will be losing their Internet connection sometime in the near future.  Is it true or just another hoax making the rounds through forwarded emails?

This time it’s not a hoax, and the possibility of your computer losing Internet access is very real according to experts.

Hundreds of thousands of Internet users may lose their online access on July 9, 2012, and Better Business Bureau is urging you to run a quick and easy diagnostic test to see if your computer is infected.

I just ran the test on my computer and it’s a simple process. (By the way, my computer tested clean).   It takes less than a minute to check and, if your equipment is clean, there is nothing more you need to do. If your computer is infected, the FBI’s DNS Changer Working Group recommends the necessary steps to save your computer. But this must be done by July 9th or you could lose Internet access.

Let’s start at the beginning so the technical language makes senses and is easier to understand.

Last November, the FBI took down the servers of international hackers operating out of Estonia. The hackers had already successfully downloaded malware on more than half a million computers, turning off virus updates and redirecting people to fraudulent websites. This is why you’ll see the acronym DNS.  DNS stands for Domain Name System (DNS).  It is a database system that translates a computer’s fully qualified domain name into an IP address.  Your computer is assigned a number on the net.   The malware redirected infected computers to servers run by the bad guys in Estonia, New York and Chicago.

If the servers had simply been shut down, the victims’ computers would no longer be able to use the Internet. Instead, the FBI set up clean servers to replace the ones that were running the scam, and victims have been redirected to those clean servers ever since, usually without any knowledge they’d been infected in the first place.

Originally the rescue servers were to be active until March, but a court ruling extended the program until July 9th. At that time the clean servers will be turned off and anyone who is still infected with the malware will lose their Internet access. The FBI believes there are still about 360,000 infected computers in a dozen countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

So, naturally, the question is, “How do I know if my computer is infected?”  The answer is a simple web address and few mouse clicks away.

Start by opening a web browser and typing http://www.dcwg.org/ in the address bar. This will take you to the DNS Changer Working Group website where you’ll find a number of resources including ways to detect, fix and protect your computer.  In fact, those are the three words you’ll see across the top of the screen.  Start by clicking the “Detect” link.  Bottom line: You’ll be asked to click the link, http://www.dns-ok.us/. If you see “DNS Resolution = GREEN,” all is ok. If not, click the Fix button and follow the directions.

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