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updated 7/9/2012 5:19:08 PM ET 2012-07-09T21:19:08

On Monday, July 9, tens of thousands, possibly millions, of computer users around the world began to lose most of their Internet access — thanks to the U.S. government.

Why this is happening is a long, complicated story that we've detailed several times on SecurityNewsDaily. It involves an Eastern European gang of online criminals, a piece of malware called DNSChanger, a dramatic international police operation and a judge's ruling.

For the full details, check out our recently updated FAQ:

Will the Government Shut Down Your Computer July 9?

Fortunately, most people will not be affected. To find out whether you might be, simply point your home or office computer to this website: http://dns-ok.us/ (Mac users need to check this too.)

If you get an image with a green background, and text including the phrase "DNS Resolution = GREEN," you're OK and have nothing more to worry about. You can stop reading this now.

If you get a red image, you will eventually lose your ability to reach websites and use email. Some Internet service providers are keeping infected machines online for a period of time — AT&T reportedly will be covering its customers until the end of the year, while Verizon will be doing so until the end of July — but the end will come.

To restore your ability to access the Internet without a helping hand, the first thing you need to do is set aside a couple of hours to run a full-system anti-virus scan. Don't have anti-virus software? Here's a helpful list.

Once the full-system scan is done, quarantine or purge any malware you may find on your PC or Mac.

Then you've got to check computer's DNS (Domain Name System) settings. Here's a video from Sophos Labs in England to show you how:

Once that's done, go to http://dns-ok.us/ again.

Green? You're in the clear.

Red? Uh-oh. Your home or office router may be infected.

Contact the router manufacturer for help on how to clean it. If your router's more than five years old, consider buying a new one. Most are under $100.

To avoid becoming infected by malware, install and use anti-virus software, keep your applications and operating system completely updated, turn on your computer's firewall and spend most of your computer time as a "limited" user who can't change the machine's settings.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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