I don't mean to alarm you, but it's possible that in a little more than two months, your computer will suddenly lose Internet access, thanks to the FBI. Apparently the tinfoil-hat-wearing, underground-bunker people have been right all along: the government really DOES have the power to cut off our means of global communication.
First we'll lose web access, then the phones will stop working, and after that? The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!
Or ... okay, probably that stuff won't happen. Look, I can't predict the future! The point is, you need to make sure your computer is malware-free by July 9, 2012 (AKA 'Internet Doomsday')—because otherwise, you may experience some serious technical difficulties.
The backstory is that several years ago some malware dubbed "DNSChanger" started floating around the web, and it eventually infected millions of computers in hundreds of countries. This particular trojan was able to infiltrate computers via seemingly innocent means (clicking a link or even clicking an image could contaminate your system), and essentially re-routed DNS-related requests to servers controlled by cyber assholes. Cyber assholes who then made a ton of money by blasting users with web ads.
DNSChanger remained active until 2011, when an FBI sting called Operation Ghost Click (which presumably did not include Tom Cruise doing macho stunts above Dubai) shut down the criminal operation. The Bureau then set up clean servers so people affected by the malware wouldn't lose Internet service. All's well that ends well, right?
WRONG! The problem is that the servers cost money to operate, and just like Shakespeare, FBI's got to get paid, son.
So the plan is to shut down these servers on July 9, 2012. When that happens, anyone who hasn't cleaned the malware off their computer will lose their Internet connection—not because anyone's actual Internet service will be affected, but because the FBI's workaround for infected computers will no longer be available.
It's hard to say how many people this impacts, but it's worth noting that at one time half of all Fortune 500 companies were infected with the malware. Here's what you can do to check your own computer:
• Check the DNS Changer Working Group's site that was created to help remedy the malware, which includes pages on how to detect it and how to remove it
• Visit the FBI's DNS checker page, where you can type your DNS info into a box to check its validity
Have you checked your computer for this particular malware?
Image via Flickr/Ed Yourdon