The devious worm that has infected up to 9 million personal computers worldwide may be just the first stage of a malicious attack, the New York Times reports. The so-called Conficker or Downadup virus, which exploits a Microsoft Windows vulnerability, pulls infected computers into systems called botnets that can be controlled by the worm's creator. Security experts expect the "botnet herder" to send out programming instructions in the next few weeks for some yet-unknown illegal activity.
“If you’re looking for a digital Pearl Harbor, we now have the Japanese ships steaming toward us on the horizon,” said the head of one security consulting firm. The motive is anyone's guess. The virus could attempt something relatively harmless, such as forcing PCs to redirect spam, or it could try to steal personal information. “I don’t know why people aren’t more afraid of these programs,” said a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.