Protect Your Computer!

Where is everyone? Playing Platinum! And thus there is no news.

A huge internet worm is supposed to start activate itself on millions of infected Windows computers come next Wednesday, April 1st. If you have important files and want to be extra careful in case you have the infection, you might want to backup your files and take some precautions. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what you can do to keep your computer safe (as compiled by me)! Despite the possible impending doom, every computer should be protected at all times with the below programs anyway!

  • Run “Windows Update” to patch your system (look for the program in your Start Menu).
  • If you are using Internet Explorer, upgrade to Internet Explorer 8, the latest version released a few weeks ago. If you are using Internet Explorer 6 (an almost eight-year old browser), you are just asking for your computer to get sick! IE7 users should upgrade too just to be safe.
  • A safer browsing option is to use Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera as your internet browser instead of any version of Internet Explorer.
  • You should make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date. If you don’t have a virus scanning program, you can try using AVG Free.
  • To remove junk spyware and adware from your computer, you can use Ad-Aware or Spybot Search and Destroy.
  • If you are up-to-date on everything, make sure your anti-virus and spyware programs are running!

If you have never protected your computer, it is probably full of junk! Removing the junk will speed up your system and keep it healthy. Personally, I use Firefox, AVG Free, and Ad-Aware to keep my laptop safe and healthy. Download some of the programs above and use them! While you are busy playing Platinum all day long or going to work, let those programs run and remove infections. If you are a child, get your parents’ permission to download and install those programs first!

In an event that hits the computer world only once every few years, security experts are racing against time to mitigate the impact of a bit of malware which is set to wreak havoc on a hard-coded date. As is often the case, that date is April 1.

Malware creators love to target April Fool’s Day with their wares, and the latest worm, called Conficker C, could be one of the most damaging attacks we’ve seen in years.

Conficker first bubbled up in late 2008 and began making headlines in January as known infections topped 9 million computers. Now in its third variant, Conficker C, the worm has grown incredibly complicated, powerful, and virulent… though no one is quite sure exactly what it will do when D-Day arrives.

Thanks in part to a quarter-million-dollar bounty on the head of the writer of the worm, offered by Microsoft, security researchers are aggressively digging into the worm’s code as they attempt to engineer a cure or find the writer before the deadline. What’s known so far is that on April 1, all infected computers will come under the control of a master machine located somewhere across the web, at which point anything’s possible. Will the zombie machines become denial of service attack pawns, steal personal information, wipe hard drives, or simply manifest more traditional malware pop-ups and extortion-like come-ons designed to sell you phony security software? No one knows.

Conficker is clever in the way it hides its tracks because it uses an enormous number of URLs to communicate with HQ. The first version of Conficker used just 250 addresses each day — which security researchers and ICANN simply bought and/or disabled — but Conficker C will up the ante to 50,000 addresses a day when it goes active, a number which simply can’t be tracked and disabled by hand.

At this point, you should be extra vigilant about protecting your PC: Patch Windows completely through Windows Update and update your anti-malware software as well. Make sure your antivirus software is actually running too, as Conficker may have disabled it.