For months, warnings have been issued about a really malicious little piece of malware that's been sneaking around the Internet for the past year or so.
It has infected tens of thousands of computers -- maybe more -- and is set to claw its way out of hiding Monday and, maybe, take over your machine.
Well, actually, it won't really take over your machine but it will start sending you to places you don't want to go. The malware corrupts your DNS settings -- the coded instructions that tell your computer where to go on the Internet to reach a certain address.
Although the visible Internet addresses we're all used to are in words -- www.google.com and so forth -- the real address is a number, similar to a phone number. There are Domain Name Servers (DNS) that your machine uses to translate the hard-to-remember number into an easy-to-remember Web site name.
DNS service is usually provided by your telephone or cable company, wireless provider or whoever provides your Internet connectivity. The malware in question changes the setting so that on Monday, your machine will start looking at a DNS server that will take you to a bunch of scam sites disguised to look like legitimate sites.
How do you know if your computer is infected? The FBI has contracted with a provider to set up a test site that will tell you in a second. Just go to http://www.dcwg.org and follow the instructions. In Canada, users can follow instructions on how to check for the virus here: http://www.dns-ok.ca/.
By the way, you don't have to be held hostage by Verizon or Time Warner or other service providers. There are lots of independent DNS servers that are often faster, better and more up to date. The best one we know if provided by -- who else? -- Google. It's called Google Public DNS. It's free, works great and is easy to set up if you're at all handy with computers.
You can read all about it on the Google Developers site.