Internet users face malware menace [Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa]By Jim Offner, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, IowaMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
July 07--WATERLOO, Iowa -- Internet connections for tens of thousands of people across the U.S. could go dark late Sunday if malware that might have invaded their computers as long as a year ago has not been deleted.
Cedar Valley Internet service providers have contacted their subscribers and are working to avert any service interruption. The providers say few, if any, customers will suffer any service interruptions.
"Since this malware surfaced back in February, we've been able to monitor DNS (Web navigation server) activity through our network and assist any customers with compromised systems," said Betty Zeman, marketing manager with Cedar Falls Utilities.
Mediacom, the Cedar Valley's other major service provider, also has systems in place to minimize risks of problems, spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said.
"Each of us has to be sure that we're continually downloading the latest versions of our software for detections," Peters said. "The biggest causes of infection is not updating software when it's available."
Notifications of the availability of software updates are familiar to regular computer users, Peters said.
"It might be three updates or 10 and, for some reason, some people don't do that," she said. "Not updating software is really opening yourself to a lot of exposure to these viruses."
Warnings about the malware problem have been widely circulated across social networking sites like Facebook. Zeman and Peters said their companies have sent out notices to subscribers. The FBI also has set up a special website and a temporary server to shield infected computers from the effects of the malware.
That temporary site will be taken down at 11:01 p.m. Sunday, though, and any computer still infected with the virus will lose its ability to go online. Users will have to contact their service provider for assistance in deleting the malware and getting reconnected to the Internet.
Officials estimate as many as 277,000 computers likely are infected worldwide and 64,000 in the U.S.
The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world. When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realized that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.
Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their Web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.
CFU has provided an online link on which anyone can test their computer for malware. The link is http://dns-ok.us/. Users also go to http://www.dcwg.org.
"We do not expect our internet customers to be affected by next Monday's FBI action," Zeman said.
Mediacom customers can call toll-free (877) 387-8087 for technical support, if they have any problems.
Peters said Medicom subscribers shouldn't have any issues with the malware.
"We have a pretty aggressive system in place," Peters said.
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