How to protect yourself from Conficker

March 31, 2009 12:59:21 PM PDT
A worm that's infected computers worldwide could launch an offensive in just hours. Computer experts have been busy preparing for an unpredictable attack from the Conficker worm on April 1.At WCA Waste in Houston, they figure the best computer defense is a good offense.

"I think we'll probably be alright with this one. I don't know what else you can really do," said Phillip Hunt of WCA Waste.

They've updated virus protection after calling Houston based Citoc, an IT consulting firm for help. However, Citoc's Chief Operating Officer admits it's tough to predict what kind of chaos the Conficker worm might cause.

"They're not completely sure what this things going to do," said James Garrett, COO of Citoc.

No one is sure what the program's authors have instructed it to do. It's known to spread easily when you use thumb drives to carry files from one computer to another. We know it turns off various security settings built into Microsoft Windows and it seems to block users from going to major web sites that provide anti-virus protection. It also contains instructions for infected computers to contact a control system somewhere out there in cyber space on April 1.

Whether it will shut systems down, steal information from your machine or just slow it down still remains to be seen.

At Rice University, they've already seen several attempts by the worm to infiltrate its servers. Rice has been able to quarantine the worm, but experts say by April 1, ten million computers worldwide will be infected.

The most unusual thing about this worm says Rice University Information Security Officer Marc Scarborough, is that it protects itself and adapts to attempts to stop its penetration.

"It's unnerving, very unnerving," said Scarborough.

Experts say the best ways you can protect yourself from the Conficker worm is by running updated anti-virus software on your computer and by installing current Windows update patches.

Doing so now might help you avoid untold frustration with your system on April 1.

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