What the ‘Internet doomsday’ virus is and how to fix it

Thousands could lose access to the Internet on July 9 due to a virus, DNSChanger, that once infected approximately 4 million computers across the world.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation first gave details about the virus last November, when it announced the arrest of the malware’s authors. The virus, as its name indicates, affected computers’ abilities to correctly access the Internet’s DNS system — essentially, the Internet’s phone book. The virus would redirect Internet users to fake DNS servers, often sending them to fake sites or places that promoted fake products. Once the FBI shut down the operation, it built a safety net of new servers to redirect traffic from those infected with the virus.

But that safety net is going offline next Monday meaning that anyone who is still infected with the virus will lose access to the Internet unless they remove it from their machine.

To see if you have the virus, you can head to any number of checker Web sites such as the DNS Changer Working Group or the FBI itself to either enter your IP address or simply click a button to run a check against addresses known to have problems. With any luck, you’ll be free and clear and won’t have to worry about the problem any further.

If you are infected with the virus, then you’ve got a longer — but not impossible — process ahead of you. According to the DCWG, those infected with the virus should first back up any important files. You can do that fairly easily with an external hard drive or even a thumb drive.

From there, you can run one of several trusted tools to get rid of the virus. Again, the DCWG has a list of them on its site, which includes programs such as Microsoft Windows Defender Off line, Norton Power Eraser and MacScan, all of which have updated their definitions to include this particular virus.

The group recommends that you use multiple tools to make sure you have a wider net of virus definitions to choose from.

Scanning your computer regularly for viruses is a good idea anyway, to make sure that your virus definitions are up-to-date. So even if you’ve scanned in the past few months, take this opportunity to run a check and avoid your own personal doomsday.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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