The FBI is advising people to check their computers for DNSChanger malware before infected computers are essentially shut off from the Internet.
Come July 9, the DNS servers set up by the government to take the place of malicious servers controlled by a gang behind a spate of DNSChanger infections will be taken offline. This means that computers using those servers that have not been cleaned of the malware will not be able to connect to the Internet via any connection requiring DNS resolution. Hoping to avoid a catastrophe for potentially hundreds of thousands of users, the FBI is encouraging people to visit the website for the DNSChanger Working Group (DCWG), which can alert them as to whether or not they are infected and offer information about how to fix the problem.
In November, following a two-year investigation, the FBI swooped in with other law enforcement agencies and arrested six Estonian nationals for running a cyber-gang defrauding the online advertising industry of millions. The gang was able to pull their scams by infecting computers with the now infamous DNSChanger Trojan, a piece of malware that changed the user’s DNS settings and pointed them to malicious DNS servers in data centers in Estonia, Chicago and New York. From there, the attackers would manipulate the victim’s Web activity, taking them to rogue sites.
But the feds soon realized they had a new problem.
“If we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service," Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, told the Associated Press recently. “The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get 'page not found' and think the Internet is broken.”
In February 2012, it was reported that approximately half of all Fortune 500 companies and what were considered “major” U.S. federal agencies are infected with DNSChanger malware.
Authorities came up with a unique answer. Under a court order, the Internet Systems Consortium began operating replacement DNS servers for the attackers’ network to give organizations a chance to identify infected hosts. But with the July 9 deadline approaching, “the full court press is on to get people to address this problem,” Grasso said.
"This is the future of what we will be doing," Eric Strom, a unit chief in the FBI's Cyber Division, told the Associated Press. "Until there is a change in legal system, both inside and outside the United States, to get up to speed with the cyber problem, we will have to go down these paths, trail-blazing if you will, on these types of investigations."