The malicious computer worm called Conficker is expected to rear its head today. Experts differ on what the effect will be. Whether it's an April Fool's prank or a sinister attempt to take over the world's computers, you can protect your PC.
What computers are affected?
Conficker, whose name may be a rearrangement of a Web site's name, exploits weaknesses in Microsoft's Windows operating system. Versions of the software have spread widely around the globe since October, mostly outside the United States because there are more computers overseas running unpatched, pirated Windows. The program does not infect Apple or Linux-based computers.
What can I do?
Computer users should apply the Microsoft patch and update their antivirus and other security software. Here's the link for the patch: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS08-067.mspx
At that site, download the correct patch for your version of Windows.
Windows users should also apply a Microsoft update for the AutoRun feature in Windows that was released in February. The patch allows people to selectively disable the Autorun functionality for drives on a system or network to provide more security, to ensure that it is truly disabled. It is available at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/967715
Finally, Microsoft has a Conficker removal tool at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/962007.
How do I know if my computer is already infected?
CNET-TV senior editor Natali Del Conte says there are three potential tipoffs that your computer may have the worm. It won't let you go to Microsoft.com, because the Web site has a fix. It also won't let you get to the Web sites of various computer security vendors, such as Symantec or McAfee. Conficker may also prevent you from turning off your computer.
What I should do if that happens?
If your machine won't power down, disconnect the Internet cable and the power cord and call a computer repair company. Hackers also could have your financial information, so log onto an uninfected computer and change all of your passwords immediately. Also, call the financial institutions you deal with and tell them you think someone may have stolen your passwords and that you'd like to be notified of any suspicious activity, and would like to change your account numbers.
Sources: New York Times, CBS News, CNet