New Windows Virus Continues to Spread, May Have Peaked

LOS ANGELES — A new virus that has been targeting Windows machines since October 2008 may have reached its peak.

The virus is called Conficker, and it propagates itself with an array of techniques. Initially, the virus exploited a vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows server service called MS08-067, but Microsoft patched up that hole soon after the virus broke.

But consumers also have cause to worry. The virus is also good at guessing passwords into sensitive areas and jumping to USB drives. According to the New York Times and other online sources, the virus is the worst online infection since 2003.

Once Conficker takes hold of a network system, it transforms all infected computers into a network of drones that deliver sensitive information back to a home server in an unknown location. Security experts say that the virus has reached a peak level of expansion at around 10 million systems, but they still don’t know who’s behind it all.

One ray of light is the virus’ regional nature. China, Russia and Brazil are home to 41 percent of the infected computers.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) has issued a recommendation to users, telling them to disable Windows’ AutoRun feature, but a representative for Microsoft took exception to CERT's recommendations and offered some of his own.

For more information, visit Symantac.com for a full run-down on the Conficker virus.

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