Rampant Conficker worm could crash global Internet

     Technology experts worldwide are finding it "almost impossible" to defeat the Conficker worm, which has infected more than 5 million computers and could even knock down the internet in all countries. The worm, which was first detected in November last year, spreads rapidly to computers through a flaw in the Windows operating system. Infected machines are co-opted into a "botnet" army, which can be controlled and used by the hackers to launch unprecedented cyber attacks. "The general agreement in the security world is that Conficker is the largest threat facing us from a cyber crime point of view ... it has proven to be extremely resilient. It's almost impossible to remove," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Rodney Joffe, a director of the Conficker Working Group formed to defeat the worm, as saying. "The best minds in the world have not managed to crack the code behind this yet," he added. The threat is so dangerous that the world's largest computer security companies have joined together with government around the world in an unusual alliance to pool their resources and solve the problem. Microsoft has offered a 250,000 dollars reward for information leading to the identification of the individuals - or rogue governments - behind Conficker. The creators of the worm can do anything they want with the infected machines including stealing users' banking details or flooding government servers to knock them offline. So far the international effort to find a solution has yielded few results, and the number of infected machines has remained fairly stable at 5 million, which include home, business and Government computers. Conflicker owes its remarkable resilience to its built-in mechanisms to prevent people from scanning their computers with anti-virus software, said Joffe. Even for those who wipe their computers clean and start fresh, if they back up any important data on a portable hard drive, the clean machine is reinfected when the drive is connected to the computer. The worm also spreads automatically between computers on a network and infects machines without the user having to do anything other than switch their computers on. Majority of the botnets can be destroyed by disabling the server used to issue commands to infected machines, but with Conficker the location of this sever changes every day and state-of-the-art cryptography means it's almost impossible to crack. Every time the security gurus feel they are on to a solution, the hackers send a new version of Conficker to the infected machines that stops them in their tracks. "Conficker has proven to be the gold standard for botnets. It's rock solid, it's steady and it has mechanisms built in that have made it impossible for us to actually crack," said Joffe. "As of today we have not been able to crack the cryptography behind it in order to disrupt it by authenticating ourselves as the command and control," he added.

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