April 1, also known as “today,” was supposed to be the date of the Conficker worm’s debutante ball. It’s the date that many had predicted would bring so many Windows-based computers to their knees. Yet, here we are, around noon EDT, and we haven’t seen much in the way of the widespread confusion and panic that we were promised. (Note: for confusion and panic today, go to London.) What’s going on?
First, what is Conficker? Long story short, it’s a computer worm that has been around for a few months now; it targets Windows PCs. (Sorry, Lauren!) No one knows for sure what the grand aim of the worm is: is it merely a prank, created to cause wanton destruction? or is it something more sinister, perhaps, dare say, designed to commandeer a number of PCs to use as a Zombie Hoard? (To echo Homer Simpson, first you get the PCs, then you get power, then you get the women. Or money, as it were.) Again, no one knows.
In any event, April 1 is merely the day that a switch flipped in the worm that makes it harder to remove and detect—not exactly the Doomsday scenario that some had predicted.
And while the world as we know hasn’t collapsed, there have been a few instances of possible Conflicker-related mishaps:
• An Air Force base in Alaska, one that’s loaded with nuclear missiles, briefly went on Defcon 3, or full-scale military alert. Depending on whom you want to believe, blame either Conficker or an over-caffeinated engineer. (The Defcon 3 status did not last long.)
• An ATM in Iceland starting pumping out 100-Krona notes. (Don’t get too excited: 100 Krona is only about $0.82 USD.)
• Big Ben stopped ticking, but that could just be a coincidence. Parliament wants a full investigation. Methinks Parliament has better things with which to concern itself.
Our own Scott Merrill was on a California radio station yesterday, more or less telling people the usual: keep your machines up-to-date by running Windows Update, install an anti-virus software program (like Norton), etc. Common sense stuff, really.
Watch, after this fairly mild post publishes pigs start flying, cats and dogs break bread, etc. Chaos!