Security Bytes

Jul 9 2012   1:20PM GMT

DNSChanger malware problems unlikely

Robert Westervelt Robert Westervelt Profile: Robert Westervelt

DNSChanger infections have declined precipitously, but remaining systems could have Internet access turned off today.

It appears the Internet will not be thrown into turmoil as a result of the FBI shutting down the servers feeding systems containing DNSChanger malware.

The DNS Working Group, made up of a number of experts from security firms, DNS providers and the government, has been tracking infections. As of June 11, there were only about 69,000 DNSChanger infections in the United States and far fewer in other countries.  The working group also estimated that globally there were approximately 303,000 systems containing the malware.

When the FBI arrested six Estonian nationals in November, charging them with running a sophisticated Internet fraud ring, investigators seized servers in data centers in Estonia, New York, and Chicago that were pointing victims to spoofed websites. The FBI estimated at the time that there were 500,000 infections in the U.S. and up to 4 million abroad.

With the news coverage aimed at consumers with little knowledge of the malware, it is very likely that the number of infections has drastically declined, although the working group hasn’t released updated figures.  When the replacement DNS servers designed to avoid disruption are turned off today there won’t likely be any serious problems. It has still generated a number of hyped headlines including “Internet doomsday virus,” and “Internet blackout looms.” Let’s put this in context: There are still 2.5 million machines infected with Conficker.

The DNSChanger malware is a good example of the need for increased security vigilance on the part of average computer users. It can go a long way to reducing the number of serious incidents by disrupting the spread of malware. The working group has a great security protection Web page that leads computer users to additional information about phishing, antimalware and Windows 7 security features.  The links lead to solid information from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the Carnegie Mellon Cylab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory and the FBI. The advice is good, and is without the marketing spin designed to sell security software.

Another great resource that puts the DNSChanger problem into context is Canada’s Public Safety office, which published a document in November. The Canadian DNS Changer TDSS/Alureon/TidServ/TDL4 Malware Web page has been updated to help people determine if their systems have been infected and contains tools to help victims remove the infection.

Checking a system can be done by simply visiting a websiteor manually depending on your operating system.

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