While some of us may be planning the relatively harmless pranks we will play on our roommates and co-workers, computer security experts are bracing for the activation of the most wide-spread computer-virus infection in several years. The Conficker worm is estimated to infect between 9-15 million Windows machines, and the truly frightening thing is that no one knows its end goal, and what it will do when activated on April 1st. When the program activates it will contact a domain (indeterminable because the virus uses an unknown algorithm to determine which domain to contact). At this point, it will download additional instructions which could be ANYTHING. This article in the New York Times outlines some of the likely possibilities.
The impact of this virus is immense. Several European governments have reported wide-spread infection of their computer systems, and the French army has grounded its fighter-jets just in case. Microsoft has posted a US$250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the virus. Is this all a big April Fools Day prank, or something much more sinister? We will find out soon.