Back in the 1990s many tech experts predicted that when the calendar showed the first day of the year 2000, computers would choke, elevators would halt, credit cards wouldn't work, phones wouldn't ring and maybe rockets wouldn't launch.
In reality, 1/1/00 was pretty much the same as 12/31/99.
April 1 of 2009, a much-hyped date when a sophisticated computer virus was set to potentially cause havoc, came and went without incident.
The Conficker computer virus, which has infected several million computers since November, was programmed to seek new instructions beginning Wednesday. That triggered speculation about what would happen, leading to media reports that Conficker could launch a massive cyber attack or do something similarly nefarious.
But security experts said there had been no Conficker-related activity. So far, Conficker has done "nothing," said Alfred Huger, vice president of engineering at computer-security company Symantec Corp. The non-event raised criticisms that efforts to use Conficker to spread awareness of cyber threats spun out of hand.
"It's really complicated and media outlets have a hard time understanding it," said Rick Wesson, chief executive of security company Support Intelligence LLC. Mr. Wesson has called Conficker a "digital Pearl Harbor."
On Wednesday, he said that he used that language to get people "to wake up" to the threat posed by cyber criminals, which aren't as obvious as threats in the physical world.
The hype around Conficker picked up in January after a self-proclaimed cabal formed to hunt down the virus's creator. It reached a new level in February, when Microsoft Corp. offered a $250,000 reward.
"In the post mortem of all of this, we're hoping this is an incident where we raised awareness of a very serious issue and that this wasn't crying wolf," said Jose Nazario, manager of security research at Arbor Networks Inc., a member of the cabal.
Security researchers say Conficker is more sophisticated than most viruses and they caution it could still cause trouble. But ultimately, Conficker will most likely be used for the same criminal purposes as other viruses. Security experts add that consumers who have up-to-date antivirus software are at little risk from Conficker and that most businesses deal with similar threats every week. (info from The Wall Street Journal)