Internet Doomsday Virus: Why The U.S. Needs To Beef Up Cyber Security

The so called “Internet Doomsday” is set to hit hundreds of thousands of computer users all over the world next week thanks to the DNSChanger virus. On Monday, computers still infected with the malware won’t be able to access the internet. That means there will be no access to email, no access to Facebook or Twitter and, worst of all, no access to PolicyMic!

It’s reported that the virus once infected nearly 4 million computers around the world. Today, roughly 300,000 computers are still infected worldwide, including over 40,000 in the United States. Even a small percentage of Fortune 500 companies still have the virus. The fact that millions of computers were affected by a single virus that has lead up to a possible Internet blackout is proof that the U.S. Government and citizens alike need to beef up their cyber security.

What Is the DNSChanger Virus?

The DNSChanger virus, created by Estonian hackers, is meant to access the internet’s DNS system. The DNS system basically acts like the internet’s road signs, directing computer users to a website. The virus would reroute internet users to fake DNS servers and it would often send them to a dummy website.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation first released information about the virus when they arrested the creators last November. When the FBI shut down the operation, they created clean servers to redirect internet users whose computer were infected with the virus. According to The Telegraph, maintaining these servers is costing the FBI “tens of thousands of dollars to operate each month.” On Monday, July 9, the FBI is going to shut those servers down.

This is bad news for PC and Mac users (yes, Mac users too) who are still infected with the virus. Shutting down the servers means that infected users won’t be detoured back to the correct DNS servers. This could cause a massive worldwide internet blackout.

To avoid this, use an anti-virus software to scan your computer and get rid of this virus (and any other virus) you might unknowingly have.

Does This Sound Familiar?

The news has been filled with reports of viruses infecting computers across the world. Most recently the Stuxnet worm and the Flame virus have made headlines. Luckily for us, these specific viruses haven’t been aimed at the United States. But just because we’re safe from Stuxnet and Flame, doesn’t mean we’re safe.

The Department of Homeland Security has cited that the U.S. is the target of an increasing amount of cyber attacks. The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) reports that attackers are targeting companies with access to power grids, water filtration facilities and a nuclear facility. According to the report, there were 198 incidents reported to DHS in 2011, up from nine incidents in 2009.

We’re All Addicted

Congress is currently reviewing President Obama’s 2013 budget, in which it calls for a 10-year process of cutting $487 billion from the defense budget. The Pentagon stands to lose more money in a half-trillion dollar trigger cut thanks to the failure of lawmakers to agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan.

Instead of making deep cuts to the defense budget, Congress needs to figure out how to efficiently use the resources we have and provide the Defense department with enough money to protect this country from physical attacks and cyber ones. If the FBI can’t (allegedly) afford to keep up a couple of servers to prevent couple of servers from going down, how will our country protect us from cyber attacks and the rise of cyber terrorism?

The fact is, we are all hooked up to the internet and everyone. Even my 80 year old grandmother, would be at best inconvenienced and at worst devastated by the loss of the internet or an attack on it by a cyber terrorist. People were up in arms over sites like LinkedIn and Gawker crashing during a thunderstorm. Imagine the fallout if the entire internet was down for days (as it may be for those still infected with DNSChanger). Could you survive without the internet?