Despite fear mongering reports to the contrary, the sky didn't fall on April 1, 2009. Many pundits spun forecasts of the Conficker virus spawning massive computer attacks that might even "bring down the Internet." It appears that nothing of any consequence happened with regard to Conficker yesterday. Granted, an unknown number of machines — possibly in the millions — are still infected, and you still need to stay vigilant with regard to this virus and innumerable other threats. Microsoft's $250,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those that created the malicious program still stands, yet the 60 Minutes report on Sunday night now has the feel of a primetime infomercial for security software.
In case you haven't been following this story, the Conficker virus spreads itself on Windows machines via network connections and USB flash drives. Mac and Linux users get a pass on this particular threat, but are by no means immune from other types of malware, spyware, and their ilk.
As always, it's important to keep up with the latest Windows patches, and ensure that your antivirus software remains up to date. Get immediate help from a computer professional if suddenly you can't download the latest updates for Windows or your security software. The inability to download updates is often an indicator that your computer has been compromised. Bolster your defenses by running an online virus scanner periodically, such one of these two free options:
Whenever the hype machine starts up again regarding the "next big threat," remember that the U.S. government offers unbiased analysis and cogent advice at www.uscert.gov. Although Conficker didn't live up to yesterday's hype — some folks can't resist the low-hanging fruit of spinning a perceived threat — it could still wreak havoc in unknown ways in the future. Help prevent the spread of computer viruses by keeping your computers patched, and be proactive about keeping your data backed up because sometimes a wily virus will still evade your best defenses.
Conficker virus confounds computer users