That very familiar doomsday scenario of planes falling out of the sky would nearly have been a reality thanks to the “Conficker” virus. Recently, French fighter aircrafts were unable to download their flight plans after databases were infected by the virus. Microsoft had warned that Conficker, transmitted through Windows, was attacking computer systems in October last year. However, it seems that the French military ignored the warning and failed to install the necessary patches. They managed to contain the infection by shutting down their entire communication system and resorting traditional forms of communication such as telephone, fax and snail mail! The attack on the system, however, is not believed to be specific or with malicious intent.
Conficker surfaced sometime in October ’08 and has been quite a pain for Microsoft. Also known as “Downandup“ and “Kido“, it is one of the worst computer threats in years, infecting more than 10 million systems worldwide. Microsoft has even put up a bounty of $250,000 (Rs. 12.35 million) on the Conficker’s authors head! However, this is not the first time such a strategy has been used. In 2005, Microsoft paid the same amount to two people for identifying the man behind the Sasser worm. As it turned out, it was a teenager by the name of Sven Jaschan. Even if this tactic has proved effective in the past, speculation suggests that Microsoft won’t get far this time as it’s believed the creator of Downandup is from a part of the world that is soft on Cybercrime such as Russia, Ukraine, or Romania. Therefore, even if he were identified, conviction would be difficult. What Microsoft probably didn’t think about is that the designer of the code himself might jump at the bounty. This might spark off a ridiculous trend where malicious code writers start looking at the Bounty as prize money!