Internet users know by now not to click on random email links on untrusted websites or within emails. It can open the door for infection and snooping of your personal material. But what about when the government tells you to click on a link? Does that make it OK? Would you trust it then?
It is estimated that 64,000 computers in the United States are still infected with a malware called DNSChanger. It is harmful enough that the government has taken steps to help eradicate it, including working with a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.
But come Monday, computers that remain infected will have their Internet access taken away. They've been warned. For months.
To find out if your computer is infected, the company the FBI is working with in this situation set up a link that when clicked will tell you if you're clean or not. It's fast and easy -- and yet are you going to click it? Have you clicked on it?
For several months, Internet users around the world have been encouraged to click links for their respective countries to make sure they're not infected. Given that 277,000 computers worldwide -- down from about 360,000 in April -- are still infected, there has to be a reason why some aren't checking and/or cleaning up the malware from their devices with the instructions provided by the DNS Changer Working Group website.
The Blaze did some Web searching to see if there is any skepticism when it comes to clicking on the link and over the last few months. There has been some, mostly on blogs and obscure forums. For example, on a forum for the blog "Mr.Landlord" one commenter says "My skeptical side immediately decided that this was a way for the government to gain access to all personal computers, but I think like this, given the history we know."
While some agreed, in theory, with this concept, others tried to set the record straight. One said: "This is the real deal and not some government tin foil. The government, led by private companies, took this virus over. They are unable to shut it down as that will effectively stop your Internet from working, if your computer is infected."
Some Blaze commenters too, in an article written about the July 9 shutdown for infected computers back in April, were skeptical about some elements of this process. Here are a couple comments from that dialogue (Editor's Note: Some of the commenter's text has been cleaned up for grammar and spelling):
- Jenniferyludy: It’s pretty sad that I do not walk away from this story with a since of urgency to check my computer for this or any other virus. What I do walk away from this article asking is: #1 – how does the government know that your computer is infected? This would strongly insinuate that the government is or has (or has acquired software that can) scan each and every computer for anything of their interest. NOT CONSTITUTIONAL! For starters, what about the freedom of speech. Next, how about searches without warrants. That’s just for starters. #2 – what gives them the authority to restrict your internet access?
- MrKnowItAll: One reason this is being done. To get you to Voluntary hand over everything you do on your Computer.
But the skepticism isn't all the result of conspiracy theorists. Our own Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker talked about the link on the Glenn Beck Radio Program today and said, for whatever reason, he just couldn't bring himself around to click.
Given that tech experts, who are generally very cautious about Internet privacy, are all providing how-tos when it comes to checking the infection status of your device, it's probably safe to say that you can click without worry.
But will you? Take our poll and let us know what you think.
If you really don't want to click the link, Facebook, Google and Internet service providers have been issuing messages to users if they detect the malware on your device. If you received a message that looks like one of the below, you're probably infected and should take steps to remedy the situation.
Or, you can just wait until Monday. If your Internet keeps working, you're good to go. If not, you'll need to contact your Internet service provider (via phone) for next steps.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.