Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Conficker worm poses global security threat

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the 'Conficker worm' remains the biggest security threat to the Internet at the moment, with the spread of the virus being almost impossible to stop. If has already infected more than 5 million computers and could be used to disrupt the Internet in entire countries, according to some experts.

The worm was first detected in November last year and spreads rapidly to computers through a security flaw in the Windows operating system.When machines get infected they are 'co-opted' into a viral network which can potentially be controlled and used by the hackers to launch unprecedented cyber attacks. Those behind the worm can reportedly do anything they want with the infected machines, including stealing users' banking details or flooding government servers to knock them offline.

The particular challenge of Conficker is that it contains built-in mechanisms to prevent people from scanning their computers with anti-virus software. Even for those who wipe their computers clean and start fresh, if they back up any important data on a portable hard drive, the clean machine is reinfected when the drive is connected to the computer. The worm also spreads automatically between computers on a network and infects machines without the user having to do anything other than switch their computers on.

As usual, security experts recommend that people who are not yet infected should ensure that they have installed the latest Windows patches and anti-virus software.



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