The Conficker Worm computer virus is infecting Windows-based computers worldwide and has experts stumped on how to stop it. It's expected to receive new instructions on April 1st. Up to the Minute Computer Consultant John Quain discusses the virus, and what it could do in the near future.
The Conficker Worm is a computer virus that has infected millions of computers worldwide. "It has all these self defense mechanisms. It snuck in through a little patch - a hole - that was in Windows a long time ago," says Quain. The program only infects Windows-based machines; Mac and Linux systems appear to be safe. Computer experts have been trying to reign in the virus for months, but the worm has created its own peer-to-peer network that doesn't operate through the internet, so it can contact other infected machines on its own.
So what makes this virus different? "Nobody really knows what its designed to ultimately do," Quain says. Experts do know, however, that the virus will be receiving new instructions on April 1st, 2009. What those instructions will be, though, is a mystery. "This program wasn't written for fun," says Quain. "This program is written clearly to do something, like make money typically. There are a lot more criminal elements out there now." Some virus experts think this particular worm has the ability to steal passwords, credit card and bank information directly from your computer.
The virus itself doesn't show many warning signs. Most users who have been infected don't report any notable slowing of their machine or pop-up virus warnings from anti-virus software. That's because the virus has the ability to stop your computer's automatic anti-virus updates. Take a close look at your anti-virus software; if your "automatic updates" are turned off, you may be infected.
Also, pay attention to your web browser. Certain websites can't be accessed if your computer has the worm. If you can't visit www.Microsoft.com, www.Symantec.com or www.McAfee.com, it's likely you have the virus. If you have Microsoft Vista installed on your computer, try to open the Defender program. If your computer is infected, you won't be able to open Defender.
If your machine is infected with the Conficker Worm, though, all hope isn't lost. There are patches available to remedy the problem. Quain says that the easiest thing to do is to visit a Microsoft-run site to run a scan with a free malware remover. You can access the malware remover by clicking here to visit www.OneCare.Life.com. "It's free, and it will remove the virus if it's on your machine," says Quain.
Also, consider shutting off "Autoplay". "Autoplay is when a program automatically starts and installs on your computer when you put the disc in," says Quain. By turning that feature off, you'll stop the spread of the virus.
You may also want to consider a free trial version of virus protection software. The free trials offer the latest protection, so if your computer isn't already infected, you may be able to keep it from getting the worm. "Better to be safe," says Quain.
By Erin Petrun
Copyright 2009 CBS. All rights reserved.