The Conficker Worm: What Happens Next?
Stahl went to talk to Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, and now a vice president at Google. The company itself says that one in every 100 Google searches brings up an infected site.
"People are blaming Google 'cause if you do the search, they say, you - Google - should be responsible if we get infected," Stahl remarked. "Now you've heard that."
"I have heard that, and I think that's a very bizarre way of looking at things," Cerf replied.
Google's position is that it's not the policeman of the Internet, but its engineers do scour the Web and issue warnings about malicious infections, or malware.
"If we happen to see what we believe is malware on that Web site, then when you go there we will pop up a Web page and it says, 'We think we found malware on this site. Maybe you don't want to go there,'" Cerf explained.
"Now I understand that if you go there anyway, Google sends you a second warning, saying: 'Are you kidding? Are you serious? We told you not to go there.' Something like that," Stahl said.
"Of course people still go," Cerf acknowledged. "And at that point it's their problem."
"The more you hear about this, the more you feel that if you bank online, shop online, open an e-mail, I mean, that almost anything you do puts you in jeopardy," Stahl remarked.
"That's a true statement. There are things. Bad things can happen. On the other hand, I've been on the Net ever since the Net started, and I haven't had any of the bad problems that you've described," Cerf replied.
But tens of millions of people have - one if four Americans, according to recent reports, as the hackers get more and more sophisticated.
Don Jackson is a hacker hunter. He is director of threat intelligence at SecureWorks in Atlanta, which protects corporations against cyber-attacks and tracks the hackers who launch them.
"Part of my job is to know the enemy, to know our adversaries," he explained.
To Jackson, the enemy is a hacker. "An enemy is somebody who wants to use computers to hurt somebody else or to make money for themselves."
Using an assumed name, "Gozi," Jackson infiltrates chat rooms where hackers sell their worms and viruses to their clients: other hackers. He asks for a demo so his company can create software to disable the malware. The hackers, he says, are typically young, male and often from Russia.
Asked how he tracks them down, Jackson said, "Well, they're like any other business. They have to advertise to get clients."
As Jackson explains, these brazen hackers do this openly on the Internet. "Unfortunately they're all too easy to find," he said.
He says many Russian hackers are in cyber-gangs that display fascist symbols, like a Swastika and anti-American artwork. They boast about all the dollars they've stolen from the rich Americans. A single hacker can make $30,000 a month and be championed in local newspapers.
"There's an example recently where two boys were arrested actually and then let go the next day, but the article in the newspaper wasn't that they were arrested and that they committed a crime, but saying: 'Look at our two local boys made good. They've cheated some greedy Westerners out of so much money,'" Jackson explained.
"They're heroes," Stahl remarked.
"They are," he agreed. "And it's bringing money into the local economy."
A correction: 60 Minutes made a mistake in using a photograph in our story called "The Internet is Infected." The picture was described in the story as a group of young Russian computer hackers which was inaccurate. The picture, provided to us by an Internet security company, had appeared on a Russian hacker magazine Web site.
It's not known who's behind the computer worm Conficker, whether it's a gang of Russian hackers or some solitary evil genius. This worm is wily - it keeps mutating. Security software companies have been kept very busy.
But Conficker can jump over protections. While Stahl was reporting this story in early March, she was stunned to learn that the wily worm had struck CBS News.
"People were havin' problems with their BlackBerries, their logons," explained Louie Pelaez, a network engineer.
He says Conficker is so aggressive, it took CBS technicians 24-7 over 10 days to hunt down and quarantine the affected computers.
"Do you actually know where it started? Can you pinpoint it?" Stahl asked.
"We really will probably never know exactly how it infected the network," Pelaez said. "We just know that, you know, once it hit, it began to propagate."
CBS News has now contained the infection, but Pelaez says Conficker could still be hiding undetected somewhere within the network.
Asked if he thinks CBS is safe, or if this could happen again, Pelaez told Stahl, "No, I pretty much thought that we were pretty solid. You try to secure a network. But there's no guarantee that somebody can't come up with something that will, you know, wreak havoc."
Conficker investigators have been talking about an April Fool's attack, because in dissecting the worm, they can see it's been programmed to receive new instructions on April 1. But nobody knows if the instructions will be benign, or something that could disrupt the entire Internet.
Produced by Karen Sughrue
- Bill Gates 2.0
- Bill Gates on Steve Jobs: We grew up together
- Preview: Michael Jackson
- Show Schedule
- Preview: A Long and Dangerous Journey
- Preview: A Face in the Crowd
- Preview: Three Generations of Punishment
- The Rescue of Jessica Buchanan
- "Big Brother" is big business?
- The Rescue of Jessica Buchanan, Succeeding As Civilians, Bill Gates 2.0
- Angelina Jolie: I would love to live a long life
- A look in Michael Jackson's closet
- Bill Gates 2.0
- Hitler's Secret Archive
- The Rescue of Jessica Buchanan
- How Bill Gates' school launched his life's work