Ours is a digital age, with many of our citizens "surfing" the Internet for work, entertainment and education. Whether we're doing online banking with routine bills paid by a few keystrokes, accessing the nation's electrical grid through very sophisticated and protected computer controls or just sending routine emails, the facets of the digital diamond shimmer with value and worth.
While tremendous talent and innovation have been devoted to the advances of the computer era, the drive of cyber-criminals has proven to be a genuine threat to every aspect of our lives. Just as national security is addressed via military and intelligence operations, it now is an imperative that the U.S. government prioritize the security of our connectivity.
In November 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation busted an international ring of cyber-criminals whose actions affected an estimated four million Internet users. The FBI, the NASA Office of Inspector General, and the Estonian police synchronized their efforts in the two-year investigation "Operation Ghost Click" to seize perpetrators and their criminal enterprise, "Rove Digital."
Data centers operated by six Estonian nationals and one Russian national in Estonia, Chicago and New York were the nerve centers of an operation that affected more than 100 countries and generated up to $14 million.
According to an FBI news release, the software known as "DNSChanger" functioned to change a user's Domain Name System settings, permitting the cyber-criminals to redirect Internet users to fraudulent websites and illegal advertisements. The software also rendered computer hardware vulnerable to other malware attacks. It would alter user searches, promote illegal products and essentially "showed users an altered version of the Internet," the FBI release said.
How does this affect you?
Most infections by the malware came from opening malicious attachments in emails and visiting suspect websites through links in emails, according to the FBI. The criminal software was found to affect computers "belonging to U.S. government agencies, such as NASA; educational institutions; nonprofit organizations; commercial businesses; and individuals."
Technicians learned that "clean" DNS servers temporarily would be required to prevent the loss of Internet access by infected computers. Originally, those clean servers were to be operational through March of this year. However, the consequences of unresolved malware issues loom large for hundreds of thousands of users, resulting in moving the cut-off date for those servers to July 9.
The FBI recommends computer users visit the website www.dcwg.org/. The DNS Changer Working Group offers the diagnostic site for a very elementary check to determine if an individual's personal computer is infected.
The same conveniences and technological advances that make our digital society function are the points of potential attack by America's enemies and the thieves of liberty's prosperity.
It's time for our elected officials to address the issue of cyber-security. This is not a partisan matter; it's constitutional.