What is the April Fools Worm and How do I Protect My Computer from It?

Following a recent report from 60 Minutes, we’ve been flooded with emails asking, “What is the April Fools Worm, and how do I protect my computer from it?” Luckily for PC owners, the solution to the problem is easier than one might think; it’s discovering the problem that’s the hard part.

The April Fools Worm is known by many names: Conficker Worm, Doomsday Virus, Kido, Downup, and Downadup. It affects any computer using a Windows-based system, which means Linux and Mac users can breathe a sigh of relief. What’s creating such a panic is that many expect the virus to kick into overdrive on April 1st, 2009, and really put a hurt on personal computers around the globe.

The April Fools Worm or Conficker Worm

In some computers, the April Fools Worm simply lies dormant. In others, it blocks systems from updating anti-virus software, and it may also gather personal information or install additional programs at a later date.

If you’re wondering, “What is the April Fools Worm and how do I protect my computer from it,” you might be interested to know that the virus is believed to have infected 10 million computers outside of the United States, and millions of American computers are also suffering from the effects of the Doomsday Virus. It was believed to have started in weak networks such as offices, airports, and coffee shops, but it has since spread at an alarming rate following its discovery in November of 2008.

The most commonly affected operating systems include: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2003. There are three distinct version of the Conficker Worm, and their designations are “A,” “B,” and “C.” The third version is the most powerful one yet.

April Fools Day

april-fools-worm

The biggest worry is what will happen on April Fools Day. Infected computers could be linked directly to servers run by the hackers, and this could allow for additional instructions to be sent or even more malicious software to be downloaded to your computer.

While it might be nothing more than an April Fools Day hoax, others believe that infected computers might have every file deleted. There’s also the possibility that keystrokes might be monitored in order to capture sensitive information such as passwords and credit card information. PC users may also be bombarded with ads for fake products and software, as this was the result of the strain known as Conficker B.

Symantec, a leading anti-virus firm, does not believe any great calamity will befall PCs worldwide on April 1st. They have publicly stated that the most likely outcome is that the worm will simply receive additional instructions on how to make itself more secure against attacks. They do admit, however, that the Conficker C Worm will one day become active, and they have no idea what the end result will be.

So how do you know if you’re infected by the April Fools Worm? One major sign may be if your computer hasn’t downloaded any updates from Windows in the last month. The same goes for automatic updates from anti-virus programs.

Eliminating the April Fools Worm

While finding the April Fools Worm can be difficult, eliminating the April Fools Worm isn’t so hard. Windows has sent updates to eliminate it, although infected computers may not have received the updates to begin with. A patch is also available from Microsoft to repair the system weakness which allows the virus to infect computers in the first place.

A number of anti-virus programs, including Symantec’s Norton products, are available to fight the April Fools Worm. In many cases, these programs can also be downloaded on a trial basis, which means there’s no excuse for not arming yourself against this online nuisance.

If you happen to know who’s responsible for the worst PC infection in years, you’ll have the opportunity to make yourself a nice pile of cash. Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for any information which leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in creating or spreading the April Fools Worm.