What is Conficker?
Conficker is an internet worm (a virus) that was released in late 2008. It spreads rapidly across computer networks and has infected millions of computers worldwide. The purpose of the Conficker worm appears to be spam distribution; the worm makes it possible for its creators to install “scareware”, fake antivirus software, on computers in an attempt to gather users’ credit card information.
What does Conficker do to my computer?
- Although Conficker’s ultimate purpose is relatively benign, the worm itself exhibits a number of serious symptoms:
- Automatic Updates is disabled, and Windows Update will not run
- Web Browsers are unable to access antivirus/antimalware websites or the Microsoft website
- Safe Mode is disabled
- Antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware programs are not able to run
- Pop-ups from a fake antivirus program appear repeatedly, warning that the computer is infected. This program may also disable various programs, disable task manager, and disable internet browsing
How can I prevent infection?
Make sure that your computer is fully up-to-date by running Windows Update. Because some patches require earlier updates before they can install, you should run Windows Update several times, until you receive a message that there are no additional updates to install.
Turn on Automatic Updates to ensure that your computer remains updated. In Windows XP, open Automatic Updates from the Control Panel. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, open Control Panel, then navigate to System and Security and click on “Turn automatic updating on or off”.
Install Antivirus software and keep it updated. There are many reputable antivirus programs available, including System Optimizer Pro. Make sure that you only install one program (multiple antivirus programs can interfere with one another), and keep it up to date.
Use strong passwords. Strong passwords are long (14 characters or longer), contain a variety of both letters and numbers, and aren’t everyday names or words such as your dog’s name, your birthday, or any word or phrase containing the word “password”. You can check the strength of your password with Microsoft’s Password Checker.
What if my computer is already infected?
If you suspect that your computer is infected with the Conficker worm, you should immediately disconnect the wireless and wired Ethernet connections so that you don’t infect the other computers on your network. Once the computer no longer poses a threat to your network, you can use an antivirus program or removal tool to disable and remove the Conficker worm. Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool has the ability to remove Conficker, but you will need to download the program to a computer that is not infected, and then copy it onto the infected computer via CD or USB flash drive.