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It’s a day when it’s the accepted norm to play pranks. But on 1 April, a computer virus, Conficker C, threatens to unleash itself and take over your machine, disable your security programs and steal all your personal data. The trouble is, no one has any idea if Conficker is anything more than an April Fool’s Day joke. Still, security experts suggest it is better to be prepared for the worst.
This “worm” spreads through malicious websites, unreliable downloads and infected USB drives. Quite simply, it hides as a Windows file in important system folders, shuts down anti-virus programs, registers itself as a bona fide “service”, prevents you from starting your computer in safe mode and doesn’t let you go to security websites and download newer versions of anti-spyware or anti-virus software. On the face of it, it leaves your computer completely vulnerable to every known virus, trojan and malicious software.
But that’s not the end of it; once a computer is infected by Conficker (or any of its variants), it can be controlled by the creator of the worm. These infected computers are then used to send spam to millions of other Internet users or directly send malicious viruses to other computers. The infected computers form a network called “botnet”, which effectively means that not only is your computer beyond your control, but your personal information—from browsing history to credit card details—is available to the worm’s creator.
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The worst part is that you might not even notice your computer has been infected. But if you see any of the following symptoms, it’s time to take action:
•Automatic updates have been turned off without your permission.
•The Internet seems to be slow; the network takes a long time to open websites.
•You cannot access anti-virus or anti-spam websites.
If you have any of these symptoms, clean your system immediately. You need a DVD of the latest anti-virus:
• Step 1: Unplug your computer from the Internet or turn off the Wi-Fi detector.
• Step 2: Reinstall the anti-virus and scan your system for Conficker.
• Step 3: Once you have removed Conficker, scan your computer again. Since Conficker can let a lot of malware infect your computer, be sure to remove any program that looks out of the ordinary.
• Step 4: Use the uninfected computer to download the MS08-067 patch (see below). Reconnect your machine to the Internet only after this.
However, even if your computer is Conficker-free, security must be beefed up to ensure that it isn’t affected during the expected 1 April attack. The best way to keep your computer safe is to download the MS08-067 patch from the Microsoft website. Here’s how:
• Step 1: Visit http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS08-067.mspx
• Step 2: Check out the list of operating systems and go to the download centre relevant to your OS.
• Step 3: Click on the file and it will attempt to update the Windows protection on your computer. Once updated, the computer will prompt you that the patch has been installed.
Caution: Make sure your computer isn’t already infected. If it is, Conficker will not let the patch work, as a result of which your computer will remain vulnerable.