DNS Changer explained

Once upon a time…

About a year ago, a piece of malware was released. One of the things that this did was to change your computer’s DNS settings.

All computers on the Internet have a numeric address (known as its IP address). But humans are not good at remembering numbers, so the DNS system was designed to convert human-readable characters (like “www.google.com”) into the number that your computer can understand. This is done by a dedicated computer called a DNS server. Your computer’s DNS server is usually provided by your ISP. Actually, there are two – a primary and secondary DNS server, just in case. Think of a DNS server a a giant phone-book. You can change it if you wish, and that is what this malware did.

Why would it do this? One reason might be to send you to “drive-by download” sites that try to load more malware onto your computer. Another would be to misdirect you to bogus sites that pretend to be your bank, steal your passwords and empty your account. But in and of itself, DNS changer does not do any major harm.

What the media failed to tell people us that most anti-malware programs have been able to detect and remove this malware for many months.

Anyway, the FBI was able to catch the folks behind this and roll up their operation. They were also able to get hold of the DNS servers. But simply pulling the plug would have left those with infected computers without internet, as they would have been looking for servers that weren’t there. So instead they decided to take the most painless option – they turned these “evil” DNS servers into “good” ones.

They needed a court order to do this, and the court order ran out last Monday. They had to shut the machine down. That’s a little different than the “your internet access can be turned off on Monday by the government!!!” crap that is being circulated by the Newsies.

In spite of the screaming hysteria from the Media, very few people have been affected. Some 277,000 computers worldwide are still infected, including a trifling 64,000 in the US. “DNS Changer is last year’s malware… Only about 0.01% of Internet users are affected by it.”

The moral of this story? Don’t tech tech advice from talking heads on TV.

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