Estimated 200,000 computers still affected by malware
Published Monday, July 9, 2012 6:36AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 9, 2012 4:47PM EDT
An estimated 7,200 Canadian-owned computers may be among the approximately 200,000 experts say remain disconnected from the Internet, knocked offline by the after-effects of some malicious software.
Affected computers lost their connection to the web just after midnight ET Monday morning, when the temporary servers that had been providing their Internet lifeline were shut down.
The stopgap servers had been running for eight months in order to give people enough time to scrub their machines of the offending software code.
But thousands worldwide either ignored the calls to check their computers, or never heard them.
Of the estimated 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide, roughly 200,000 are still playing host to the so-called "malware" -- the term for software designed with malicious intent -- that sneakily installed itself on their personal computers over a year ago.
When the FBI cracked down on the hackers who created and circulated the "DNSChanger" code in late 2011, agents realized that shutting down the servers being used to control the estimated 570,000 infected computers would leave them without any Internet service.
To buy some time, the FBI secured a court order to hire a private company that set up two clean replacement servers and ran a website that offered a simple diagnostic service as well as instructions on how to remove the malicious software.
That contract expired at midnight Monday, and was not renewed, ending the eight-month reprieve.
Yet, in spite of the warnings from such Internet giants as Google and Facebook, many did not heed the advice to check their computers. Even though it's too late to take preventative measures, there's still a simple fix available.
Affected users will require an active Internet connection, however, to download one of the freely-available diagnostic and repair programs.
And experts suggest all computer users point their machines to one of the websites setup to provide a quick online check, even if they passed the midnight deadline apparently unaffected.
That's because some private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have set up their own measures to keep their customers' infected computers connected. If that's the case, security experts say your computer may still unwittingly contain the malicious code.
In that case, FBI supervisory special agent Tom Grasso told The Associated Press the Internet may work, but the malware could pose future problems.