Yesterday, tens of thousands of Internet users turned on their computers, wondering if they would be able to connect to the Web. By evening, news stories were asking was the DNSChanger Doomsday Virus the biggest overblown computer threat since Y2K?
What was the Doomsday Virus? It is a piece of malware discovered about five year ago that manipulated the Domain Name Server routing service for affected computers, rerouting an individual's computer to servers mostly in Estonia. Computers became infected through an online advertising scheme that ended up impacting hundreds of thousands of computers. Late last year, the FBI took down the criminal ring responsible for the virus, but realized that if they took down the offending servers, most of those infected would lose Internet connectivity. Instead, the FBI kept the servers (or substitute servers) in place to avoid Internet chaos.
That all ended yesterday when the FBI closed down the servers. Leading up to the date, the FBI and numerous private sector partners worked to educate Internet users about the Doomsday Virus, warning them to check to see if their systems were infected. Many, however, estimated that lots of users were still infected and would lose the Internet today.
It didn't seem to happen that way which is good. It means that the FBI and the private sector did a good job plugging the vulnerability and getting everyday users to fix their systems. Less drama and "the sky is falling" mentality in cyberspace is what we need right now, along with more operational and technical fixes to the cybersecurity problem. We won't eliminate bots, malware, worms, or viruses but we can try to mitigate the damage caused by them.
The Doomsday Virus efforts bode well for groups like the Internet Botnet Group announced at the end of May at the White House. The group is bringing the federal government together with industry to combat botnets and better educate users (e.g. "Keep a Clean Machine") and promote technical standards at NIST. Hopefully, with true partnerships and a coordinated effort, combating malware can help set an example for our larger cybersecurity efforts.
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