When the FBI asks for help, TechMan always tries to oblige.
There was that small matter with Patty Hearst a few years ago.
And to go even further back, there was the night J. Edgar called and asked if I knew which movie John Dillinger was planning to see. And if I knew anything about that girl young Clyde Barrow was hanging around with.
So when authorities asked the media (and even though the media blanches when they hear it, TechMan is part of the media) to publicize a tech situation that could cause thousands to lose Internet connectivity on July 9, my answer was, "Where do I report?"
Let's start last fall. In November, the FBI arrested six Estonian hackers and accused them of making millions from an online advertising scam that involved fake, or rogue, DNS servers.
A Domain Name System (DNS) server is a computer that links the website name that you enter into your browser (e.g. post-gazette.com) with a set of numbers that pinpoint the exact location on the Web of the site you want to reach. You could call it a switchboard for the Web.
What the bad guys did was use malware to point the browser of an infected computer to their own "rogue" DNS servers instead of real ones. That sent the users unknowingly to the bad guys' websites and they used those "fake" destinations to generate clicks on ads. Legitimate advertisers paid the bad guys as much as $14 million for all those wayward clicks.
So, after the bust, the logical thing for the FBI to do was to shut down the rogue DNS servers.
But if they did that, the FBI reasoned, more than half a million infected machines would "point" to a DNS server that was not there. In effect, those machines would be "disconnected" from the Internet.
And the FBI knew that those half-million infected machines in the U.S. included federal agencies, such as NASA.
So, the FBI opted to leave the servers running, with ads-neutralized, to avoid disrupting Internet functionality. To give users time to deal with the disruption, the FBI secured a court order that authorized the Internet Systems Consortium - a nonprofit that supports the Internet's infrastructure - to roll out and maintain temporary, "clean" DNS servers.
But the FBI doesn't want to be in the DNS server business, so on July 9, the "clean" servers will be shut down. At that point, anyone still infected with the DNS malware will seem to have lost Internet service.
Computers running Linux, iOS on iPhones and iPads or Android are not affected. That pretty much leaves PCs and Macs.
The DNS Changer Working Group has created a website, dcwg.org, that allows you to check to see if your computer is infected. By clicking a link, you will either see a message with green (you are not infected) or red (you are).
The site also has a list of free tools to remove the malware.
Some security experts say the only way to really clean your computer is to format the hard drive and reinstall everything. While that certainly will work, it is a complicated and time-consuming process.
Barry Greene, the former director of Internet Systems Consortium, says the removal tools at dcwg.org should do the job.
So check your machine for infection and clean it up if you find any. Otherwise you might wake up July 10 and wonder where your World Wide Web went.
Because of those Estonian gangsters, it will be gone. Just as gone as if Baby Face Nelson had taken it at gunpoint.
HP and Staples have announced free electronics recycling for all brands of office technology at Staples stores nationwide, regardless of where the devices were purchased. Customers can drop off their technology at the service desk at Staples, according to HP.
Goodwill Industries also accepts old computers and computer parts for repair and resale. They will recycle any device that can't be fixed.businessnews - interact