Computer users are bracing for Conficker worm

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azfamily.com

PHOENIX -- If you own a computer or laptop, you could be in for a technical meltdown, courtesy of a virus that is expected to be unleashed in just two days.

This is supposed to the mother of all viruses and if you don't take precautions to protect your computer, one computer expert says it will be like swimming in shark-infested waters with a steak strapped to your chest.

That's how serious experts say this virus or worm is.

"It's very concerning," said Nick Westby, a student at Arizona State University. "It's scary,"

"That's concerning for sure," said ASU student Cynthia Sockstill. "I've never really gotten a computer virus!"

It's being called the mother of all viruses.

"They're saying it's like the Pearl Harbor of the Internet worm," said Scott Banks, ASU information security officer.

Banks is in charge of computer safety at ASU and knows how significant this latest computer worm is.

"It changes itself so it's almost harder to detect every time it infects another system," Banks said.

Ken Colburn of Data Doctors says the computer worm, known as Conficker, can literally cause a technical meltdown.

"It infects machines so they can turn them into zombies on a botnet," Colburn said. "They want to take over a bunch of computers so they can remotely control them all at one time."

And it's all set to activate on April 1, April Fool's Day, but this is no joke.

"What's going to happen is whatever the remote operator wants to do with your machine it can do, but it's going do it silently in the background so there's going to be no bang, there's going to be no pop," Colburn said.

Although its attack will be silent and you may never now it's hit your computer, its effects will be huge.

"It's possible it will start tracking your key strokes so that it can steal your identity," Colburn said. "Once it gains control of your machine there's really no limitations to what they can do with it."

And that especially worries ASU students who, like a lot of people, do everything online.

"Like my banking information online, my school information," Westby said.

"They could get everything -- my banking information I put in to pay bills for me and all of my roommates," Sockstill said.

But Colburn says there are simple steps people can take to ensure they aren't infected and to keep from getting infected.

He says first up make sure you have antivirus software installed.

Next, he says to check your automatic updates.

"If the auto update has been turned off, that could be a sign you are infected," Colburn said.

Finally, he says download the latest security updates from Microsoft.

"What we all want to do is get everybody to check their machine and if they have it get rid of it so that you can't be used as a pawn in this little zombie game they're playing," Colburn said.