Heard the one about the FBI shutting down the Internet next month?
Like many memes before it, this dire warning is floating around blogs and sites. It even names a date: March 8 as the day the FBI might “shut down the Internet.” But relax, that’s not really the case.
While yes, an untold number of people may lose their Internet connection in less than three weeks, if they do they have only nefarious Web criminals to blame and certainly not the FBI.
If people end up in the dark on March 8, it’s because they’re still infected with the malware the FBI started warning people about last November when it shut down a long-standing Estonian Web traffic hijacking operation that controlled people’s computers using a family of DNSChanger viruses. The malware works by replacing the DNS (Domain Name System) servers defined on a victim’s computer with fraudulent servers operated by the criminals. As a result, visitors are unknowingly redirected to websites that distributed fraudulent software or displayed ads that put money into the bad guys’ pockets.
Here’s the worst part: The malware also prevents security updates and disables installed security software.
To help protect victims, the FBI replaced the rogue servers with legitimate ones — a measure the agency said would be in effect for 120 days. Had it not taken that step and simply shut down the bad servers back in November, infected computers would have been immediately blocked from Internet access.
So the current problem isn’t that the FBI will be shutting down the Internet when the 120 days runs out on March 8, it’s that many people and organizations haven’t removed the malware from their computers. In fact, as many as half of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies are delinquent in updating, according to some reports. …