You remember the Conficker worm, don't you? Well?
If you don't, or if you're going, "Oh, yeah, that thing," maybe that's good. The Conficker botnet, a devilishly well-written piece of rogue computer code that threatened ominously to do something undefined on April 1 -- well, it turned out to be one of history's great April-Fool's letdowns.
But it's still out there. Some computer scientists say there are more than 5.5 million computers that are still infected, though they're far away from most Americans. The worst infestations seem to be in Brazil, China and Vietnam.
Take a look at Sean Michael Kerner's piece on InternetNews.com about last week's Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas. He quotes Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the computer security firm F-Secure:
"The gang behind Conficker are no fools," Hypponen said. "They know their stuff, they know coding, development cycles, crypto and they are clever and they are watching us, their enemy in the security industry."
The headline from the conference seems to have been that security people there couldn't tell all they had learned about Conficker. Everyone expected the perpetrators to have been found out by now. But there was this one intriguing bit: that perhaps its creators had set it loose...and then left it to run on its own around the Internet.
"The botnet is currently growing, but the authors do not seem to be doing much of anything with it," said Roel Schouwenberg in an interview with Kerner.
What was Conficker meant to do, other than drive computer people nuts (and perhaps drive you to buy anti-virus software)? Nobody's sure, but there were some suggestions that its mission is pretty mundane. It may have been meant to infest computers, and use them to -- hold on to your chair -- send out spam.