For months, we've wondered what the makers of the Conficker worm, which was set to activate on April 1, were up to. An evil plot to destroy the world? Nah — they just want money.
Conficker has been the object of a lot of speculation since it was first reported in January; it has since spread to between 3 million and 12 million computers running Microsoft Windows. One security expert called the computer virus a "digital Pearl Harbor." The reason why it has been so feared is because no one knew quite what it would do — it's designed to take over a computer and then wait for instructions. The only real sign of infection: Conficker blocks access to the websites of Microsoft and other antivirus software companies, making its removal more difficult. Besides that, Conficker is capable, in theory, of anything. Or nothing. April 1 came and went without the millions of infected machines showing much activity.
Then this morning Conficker started downloading a viral payload. The result? Infected machines started displaying popups offering a supposed antivirus software called "Spyware Protect 2009" for $49.95:
It's the perfect behavioral targeting: Anyone who left their machine unprotected against Conficker has a natural need for spyware blockers. Naturally, Spyware Protect 2009 does nothing of the kind; it's actually another computer infection which lets hackers steal passwords and other data — probably so they can make more money.
Why are today's computer villains so damn boring? Whatever happened to hacking into systems in order to impress girls?