iPads at risk as global internet shutdown looms today

Call centres on standby as computer users log on in hope

Internet users across the world, including the UAE, were holding their breath as they switched on their computers this morning as the threat of a global internet shutdown loomed.

Though there were no major shutdowns reported at the time of filing this report, iPads were reported to also be at risk of a shutdown.

If you are keen to find out if your device will continue to work tonight simply click on the following link: www.dns-ok.us

If the page is green, there is no need to worry as your device is clear of the malware. However, if it's red, it’s time to rectify your device as it is infected.

Immediately back up your files and follow the steps at www.dcwg.org/fix

Internet service providers across the globe and including the UAE have been warning customers ever since the problem was discovered last year. Google and Facebook too have taken up the task of informing infected users.

Internet providers are braced for calls to helplines.

Internet users scanning their Twitter feeds or Facebook accounts were encouraged to add one more quick click to check their computer for malware.

Some providers may put technical solutions in place that will correct the server problem that could hit some computers.

It they do, the Internet will work, but the malware will remain on victims' computers and could pose future problems, said Tom DeGrasso, an FBI supervisory special agent.

At 12:01 am EDT, the FBI planned to shut down the Internet servers set up as a temporary safety net to keep infected computers online for the past eight months.

The court order the agency obtained to keep the servers running expired, and it was not renewed.

The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world.

When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realised that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.

In a highly unusual move, the FBI set up the safety net. The bureau brought in a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.

The FBI arranged for a private company to run a website — http://www.dcwg.org — as a place where computer users could go to see if their computer was infected and find links to other computer security business sites where they could find fixes for the problem.

From the onset, most victims didn't even know their computers were infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

Many computer users don't understand the complex machines they use every day to send email, shop, and cruise for information.

The cyberworld of viruses, malware, bank fraud and Internet scams is often distant and confusing, and warning messages may go unseen or unheeded.

Also, some people simply don't trust the government, and believe that federal authorities are only trying to spy on them or take over the Internet.

Blogs and other Internet forums are riddled with postings warning of the government using the malware as a ploy to breach American citizens' computers. That's a charge the FBI and other cybersecurity experts familiar with the malware quickly denounce as ridiculous.

Still, the Internet is flooded with conspiracy theories:

"I think the FBI just wants everyone to go to that website to check our computers so they can check our computers as well. Just a way to steal data for their own research," one computer user said in a posting on the Internet.

Another observed: "Yet another ploy to get everyone freaked out ... remember Y2K."

There is an underlying sense that this will be much ado about nothing, such as the approach of 2000. The transition to that year presented technical problems and fears that some computers would stop working because they were not set up for the date change. In the end there were very few problems.

Considering there are millions of Internet users across the country, several thousand isn't a big deal, unless you're one of them.

For computers affected, the blackout will be total, experts say.

"Connectivity will be lost to the Internet PERIOD," said a blog posting from the security firm Symantec.

If your computer isn't functioning properly, customer support lines could be your best solution.

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