Business as usual for ISPs during 'internet blackout'

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Infected boxes remain online.

The mainstream media's DNSChanger internet doomsday arrived without fanfare, as the FBI pulled the plug on servers that allowed thousands of computers in Australia to access the web.

Security firm F-Secure confirmed early Monday that the temporary servers, which replaced the rogue servers that had been operated by a now-dismantled fraud syndicate spreading the DNSChanger trojan, went offline, as expected.

Yet, despite the media hype that some 6000 computers in Australia, 60,000 machines in the US and a couple of hundred thousand elsewhere in the world remained infected and could lose internet connectivity -- creating a Y2K-style scenario -- the resulting scene has been calm.

Australia's second-largest ADSL provider iiNet found no increase in customer requests for assistance in cleansing DNSChanger infections.

The lions' share of infected machines within Australia resided under Telstra within an Autonomous System Network (ASN), according to the DNSChanger Working Group. The network yesterday contained 4383 infected machines.

Telstra, which redirected infected customers so they would not lose internet connectivity, said it had at least 2500 Telstra affected endpoints.

"According to reports, many major internet service providers have configured their own substitute DNS servers and are continuing to work the problem," wrote Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-Secure, in a blog post.

"So, the FBI is out, and ISPs are in. All in all, things are working out as they probably should in a case such as this. The infection count continues to decrease without a major crisis in support calls. We've only received a couple from our own customers."

According to F-Secure, the number of infected IP addresses now sits at around 47,000 in the United States -- though many of those machines may not even be actively used to access the internet.

Major ISP Comcast has received a "miniscule" number of help-related calls since midnight, according to company spokesman Charlie Douglas. And like other ISPs, Comcast is standing by and ready to assist any customers, he said.

The SANS Internet Storm Center's Johannes Ullrich further downplayed the hype and suggested users who haven't cleaned their systems by now probably deserve the consequences.

As recently as last fall, an estimated half-million computers in the United States and several million across the world contained the DNSChanger trojan.

"There are about (two billion) internet users," he wrote. "So about 0.01 (percent) of internet users are infected. In other words: Very few. People who have disregarded warning banners, phone calls from ISPs, (anti-virus) warnings, and other notification attempts -- they probably should be disconnected from the internet."

-With Darren Pauli

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition
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