Internet security experts say that the computer worm known as Conficker, which has the ability to silently penetrate vulnerabilities within the Microsoft operating system, is beginning to rear its ugly head.
They say that the software is installing new and malicious programs on some of the computers it has already invaded with the aim of using those PCs to send out criminal spam and scrounge around on unsecured computers for valuable personal data, Reuters reported Friday.
Conficker, also called Downadup and Kido, works like this: Once the worm wiggles into a PC, it then has the ability to install software and enable the computer to receive additional viruses from the program’s creators. It can also link an individual PC to other infected machines and create an army of computers under its control, called a botnet, which can be strung together for launching cyberattacks.
Millions of PCs already invaded
Experts say that the Conficker worm has already dug into millions of PCs but only been activated in a small percent of them. It was feared that the makers of the software program would trigger a massive attack on April 1. While that didn’t happen, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) said earlier this month that it has detected a new variant of the worm that “updates earlier infections via its peer-to-peer network against unpatched systems.”
Microsoft released a security patch last year to improve its systems’ security in an effort to combat Conficker. The patch is still available at Microsoft.com, but an estimated 30 percent of Microsoft users have not updated their systems.
While many say that the Conficker Worm is one of the most sophisticated they have come across — and the most widespread since a worm called Slammer that spread in 2003 — there are some simple protections that PC users can take. In addition to the free updates available from Microsoft, computer users can purchase an array of antivirus programs from software makers such as Symantec or McAfee.(pcworld)