1 Apr 2009

Conficker virus stays its hand

12:36 pm on 1 April 2009

The rapidly spreading conficker computer virus was set to activate on Wednesday but so far has yet to act.

Some security experts have estimated that the virus could cost New Zealand businesses and organisations millions of dollars.

But information technology consultant Nick Fitzgerald, who stayed up into the early hours to monitor conficker, says the threat remains but as of yet the virus has not done a thing.

Mr Fitzgerald says the virus has infected between five million and 10 million computers worldwide.

A taskforce assembled by United States software giant Microsoft has been working to stamp out the worm, and the company has put a bounty of $US250,000 on the heads of those responsible for the threat.

The worm, a self-replicating program, takes advantage of networks or computers that have not kept up to date with security patches for Windows RPC Server Service.

It can infect machines from the internet or by hiding on USB memory sticks carrying data from one computer to another. Once in a computer it digs deep, setting up defences that make it hard to extract.

Computer users are advised to stay current on anti-virus tools and Windows updates, and to protect computers and files with strong passwords.

Conficker is programmed to reach out to 250 websites daily to download commands from its masters.