I find the “news” coverage of Conficker to be absolutely disgraceful. Is this what passes for journalism?
I want you to imagine that there is a parasite that can invade your body and reside in there indefinitely. Once in your body, it could give you a heart attack, it could poison your blood stream, or it could make your liver fail. Once the parasite was discovered to be in the wild, doctors discovered that you could avoid getting the parasite by simply washing your hands before you ate. They also figured out that the parasite was going to change shape on a certain day. As that day approaches, people who haven’t been washing their hands go into a panic. They don’t know if they have the parasite or not. They start running to quack doctors who say they’ll make sure to protect these people against the worm if the potentially infected individuals just buy a prescription subscription for a special drug. After the parasite changes shape, though, no one’s had a heart attack or failed liver yet. So all the parasite-infected people celebrate that the parasite hasn’t done anything.
What?! Did I miss something?
Yes, the scenario I’ve just described in biological terms is exactly what just happened with the Conficker worm that’s infected an estimated 10 million Windows computers.
Microsoft discovered a flaw in its operating system and patched the flaw back in October 2008. The latest iteration of the Conficker worm, which takes advantage of this flaw, began surfacing around November 2008 and kept infecting Windows computers for months. The experts all knew that on April 1, 2009 the infected computers would have the worm checking for updated instructions from its creators.
Then the panic came in. Oh, no! It’s coming! It’ll be the end of the internet as we know it. I’m turning off my computer that day. If I buy this antivirus software will it protect me? Hide the children! Oh. Nothing happened? It has the power to attack and bring down major websites and government systems or steal personal information but nothing appeared to happen today? Oh. Okay. It was a big joke then. Ha ha. Who cares if I’m infected? I’m just going to go on my merry way.
Uh, no. First of all, Windows users should regularly install Windows updates. This was patched even before it was a real threat. And it doesn’t matter if the world didn’t seem to end today. The Conficker worm has the power to do serious damage, and no one knows when it’ll decide to do that damage or what kind of damage it will decide to do. It doesn’t mean you fly into a panic as if it were Orson Welles’ reading of War of the Worlds. But it doesn’t mean you go on your merry, care-free way either.
Educate yourself. Protect yourself. Be sensible. Conficker is dangerous but instead of flying into blind paranoia, just take practical and level-headed steps to protect your computer and your personal information. Silent can still be deadly, and I’m not just talking about flatulence.