Security watchdogs warn that millions could be affected by the Conficker worm tomorrow -- unfortunately, this is not in an April Fool's Day joke. Over nine million PCs are already infected and a new variant of the virus could threaten those who didn't patch their PCs with the latest security updates.
Symantec warns that on April 1 Conficker "will simply start taking more steps to protect itself." After tomorrow, machines infected with the new "C strain" of Conficker may not be able to get security updates or patches from Microsoft and other security products vendors, says the company. Known also as Downadup or Kido, Conficker is a worm whose purpose security researchers can't decipher yet.
How do I stay safe?
Security experts recommend that you run good antivirus software (such as Norton or McAfee) and that you keep updated with all the latest patches and updates from both Microsoft (Vista and XP) and for your antivirus provider. "Free" security scans from various Websites are not recommended. Google searches for Conficker protection software are not advisable either, as they could redirect you to sites that will actually infect you. Users who received all the automatic updates from Microsoft should be already protected from Conficker.
How do I know if I'm infected?
Spreading across networks, Conficker finds vulnerable computers and automatically disables security services (like Windows Update and antivirus) and blocks access to various well-known security firms' Websites. Another symptom of Conficker infection is when your Internet connection is running suspiciously slowly, without any apparent reason. The best way to find out whether you already have Conficker is to use one of the Microsoft, Symantec or McAfee security tools. A free trial version of these should at least help you remove the virus and keep you safe tomorrow).
More on how Conficker works can be found here.