City spared of the worst of web virus
Hongkongers have been urged to remain alert for signs of a computer virus that blocks web access, although local authorities had only one report of an infection yesterday.
Workers at the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre were breathing a little more easily after a noon deadline - when a temporary fix that the US FBI devised for the DNS Changer malware was due to expire - passed with minimal complaints.
Experts had earlier estimated that 300,000 computers worldwide, including 700 in Hong Kong, had been infected with the malware, which bars users from logging onto the web.
'It is too early to say the crisis is over,' centre manger Roy Ko Wai-tak said. 'We may have to wait for a few more days to see the extent of the problem in Hong Kong, when more people find their computers have lost their internet connection.'
The DNS Changer virus was not difficult to avoid, Ko said, but added that users without updated anti-virus software were more vulnerable.
DNS - or domain name system - converts domain names such as www.scmp.com into numerical addresses so computers can talk to each other.
There are many variants of the DNS Changer malware, but most change a computer's DNS settings to point to servers controlled by cyberthieves, who can then lead unsuspecting users to fraudulent websites or other kinds of malicious software.
The virus was discovered in 2007, and a ring of six Estonian scammers believed to be behind its spread was shut down in November. The hackers reportedly made US$14 million from the malware over four years.
Because the virus affected so much web traffic, the FBI obtained a court order to allow it to operate temporary replacement servers, allowing traffic to flow normally and giving victims time to fix the problem. That order expired at noon yesterday.
Hongkongers who experience problems that appear related to the DNS Changer are urged to call the computer-emergency response centre at 8105 6060 for instructions on how to resolve the problem.
The amount, in US dollars, that an Estonian hacker ring reportedly made off an earlier version of the DNS Changer virus