At midnight, 64,000 computers in the United States and a quarter million worldwide might be forced off the Internet due to a stopgap provision provided by the federal police force that’s on its last legs. The program was set up in November to allow the machines infected with the “doomsday virus” DNSChanger (or its more conspicuous title, Operation Ghost Click) to continue to be connected to the Web.
This move came after the FBI realized that if it all eliminated the virus all together, those tens of thousands of computers would have immediately lost Internet connection. So, in order to prevent that, it set up a kind of safety net that would keep the malware at bay… for the time being.
But the FBI is not unleashing SkyNet for no reason (at least, we hope not), other than the fact that the court order it received to keep the servers running has expired. By ending the safety net, the federal police force hopes to step away from the computer protection industry and pass the torch over to the providers responsible for connecting uses to the Web.
In other digital words, the FBI is putting the Internet up for security adoption.
Operation Ghost Click started a year ago, when rogue hackers somewhere in the world decided to get their feet wet in the multibillion-dollar industry known as online advertising. The malware was perceived by a user as any ordinary advertisement and was virtually undetectable in a system. Once the FBI discovered the digital microbe, it set up a website – www.dcwg.org – so users could see if their machines tested positive for the disease. For those who were paying attention, this lead to conspiracy theories of data-hacking, Y2K levels of hysteria.
Soon after, the Obama administration announced that it too would push for a public-private initiative to transfer security responsibilities over to ISPs. The FCC set up an advisory council in March called the CSRIC – short for the Communications, Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council – that echoed the same call for civic online responsibility.
With these advances in mind, we can see the grand scheme of things that the FBI has in mind. But, when you think about it, the FBI is basically opening the floodgates and letting ordinary users fend for themselves. Is that the only way we’ll learn? If we’re thrown into an online free-for-all and develop survival skills with a click of the mouse? Also, who do we trust more: the FBI or our ISP?
I guess we’ll find out at midnight.