Will you still be around July 9th?

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Around the Internet, that is. That's the day they're going to shut off a number of DNS servers. Now DNS, which stands for Domain Name System, is how your computer finds anything on the Internet. The Internet doesn't work with names, it works with numbers. When you type in a site name, like http://www.machinedesign.com, your computer contacts the DNS to look up the numeric address for the Machine Design Web site. Without that look-up, you're not going to get anything from MD, or anywhere else. The Internet will vanish from your computer.

So if the DNS machines are so critical, why are they turning them off? Because the machines being turned off are substitutes for the real ones. They replaced the DNS servers operating a large botnet created by the hackers that produced a virus known as DNSChanger. Once infected, your computer would use the hackers' DNS system, rather than the official machines, so they could redirect your Internet connection anywhere they wanted. This let them accumulate about $14 million in stolen monies by learning account accesses and passwords. The hacker group was arrested, and these substitute machines were set-up to keep everyone infected with the virus operational -- for the moment. The number of machines infected with this virus at its height of operation totaled close to four million computers. But that's been over a year ago, and it's time for the substitutes to be shut down. The problem is an estimated 300,000 machines are still infected with the virus.

There are a number of ways you can check to see if you're infected. First, if you saw a banner appear on Google or Facebook saying you're infected, that banner was real and you are infected. Both services are checking where your DNS data comes from, and thus are able to alert you to the fact it didn't come from the right place. You can also check your machine at a number of websites, such as http://www.dns-ok.us, a site operated by the DNSChanger Working Group. That's the group charged with keeping the replacement DNS computers running. This group also lists other detection sites at http://www.dcwg.org/detect/ and places to get removal tools to fix your system at http://www.dcwg.org/fix/.

Oh yeah, if you run a Mac, don't think you're immune to this virus. Both Macs and PCs use the same DNS system. So both operate software that could be compromised. If you're not sure whether you're infected or not, check it NOW. Because after July 9th, you may not be able to.

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