As many as six hundred and fifty New Zealand homes and businesses could lose access to the internet at 4pm on Monday, InternetNZ has warned.
The outage could happen when the United States FBI turns off servers that have been keeping hundreds of thousands of computers infected with an Estonian computer virus properly connected online.
The virus, DNSChanger, was released in 2007 and was designed to direct infected computers' web browsers to servers that had been compromised by hackers, allowing them to steal personal information such as online banking passwords and logins.
The plot was cracked in November when the hackers, who were reported to have netted US$14 million, were arrested and the compromised servers taken over by the FBI.
However, it will shut the servers down on Monday, meaning those computer users who have not yet rid themselves of the virus and restored their DNS settings will find themselves cut off from the internet. At the end of March there were still 450,000 infected computers worldwide.
InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar said US authorities had found the servers were supporting 650 New Zealand internet protocol addresses, but the actual number of infected New Zealand computers could be higher because more than one computer in a home or business may be connected through a single internet account. All up, the society speculated about 1000 New Zealand machines might be infected.
Google and Facebook have been flashing up warnings when people with infected computers visit their websites. There is also an online tool that computer users can use to quickly check whether their computer has the virus: dns-ok.org.nz. That service was developed by NetSafe, the National Cyber Security Centre, and the Economic Development Ministry.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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