Malware 1, Greg 0

Wednesday, December 15th 2004


Last Wednesday night, I stayed over my father's house for dinner, and to spend the evening reinstalling windows XP on their machine. Not so long ago, I'd done this on my mother's machine, and soon after reinstalled XP on my own machine at home. In neither case had I found it a major undertaking, and so I was confident that I could complete the process in a single evening.

My first step was to ensure that everything was backed up. The machine had three users and three profiles, and so I had to burn three "My Documents" folders onto CDs, and backup emails from Outlook Express, which was quite a pain.

By the time I began the reinstall in earnest, it was 9pm. I relaxed while the drive happily formatted and while the reinstall itself took place. That was the easy part. Once it was finished, ignoring for the moment the horrible screen resolution which I couldn't quickly alter, I installed the firewall which I'd burned onto one of the CDs, and Norton Antivirus. Then I tried to connect to the internet. No luck.

A quick check showed a missing driver for the USB cable modem, so after a long hunt to find the CD, I spent a while trying to install the driver, but the process couldn't complete because the modem could not be located. This was the most painful part of my evening. Eventually, I found that the NIC driver was missing, and I somehow located the CD containing that driver, after which I was able to install the required cable modem driver.

Now I could finally get online, so I downloaded Firefox, Thunderbird, Real Alternative, and a few more essentials.

Now browsing with Firefox, I started hunting for a compatible video driver. That (unfortunately) took forever. It also took longer than I'd hoped to locate the correct printer driver, sound driver, and Intel Chipset driver. When I'd reinstalled before, these drivers had come preloaded! What a pain!

The MS Office CDs were nowhere to be found, so I gave them OpenOffice, which I use in lieu of MS Office, as a temporary solution. By the time I'd finished installing my dad's Kodak Easyshare software, windows service packs, and GAIM for Chrissy, it was 3:30 AM. Boy, was I tired that Friday.

Then yesterday, I got a call from my dad while I was at work. The computer was taking forever to start up, and worse -- when he logged in, his taskbar was missing!. My immediate assumption about the taskbar was that he'd inadvertently hidden or moved it, as I've so often done myself. But once I got there, I found that it was indeed missing - even hitting ctrl-escape or the windows key wouldn't coax it to appear. Zonealarm blocked Weatherbug once, but I'm fairly sure that Weatherbug had nothing to do with the main problem. My father initially confused Weatherbug with Weatherfox, a Firefox extension which I'd installed myself. (At least Weatherfox only runs while Firefox is open) I later found out that Weatherbug is automatically installed when you install AIM. Chrissy was uncomfortable using the GAIM application I'd installed, and so had installed AIM, which I'd told her was fine. At that time, the only minuses I'd seen to AIM were fewer features and annoying advertisements. But after checking the list of installed programs, I also found that WildTangent was installed, and later learned that it too is automatically installed when you install AOL Instant Messenger. Looks like I'm going to start warning people away from AIM - GAIM or Trillian are better choices anyway.

In any event, a quick look at the task manager didn't turn up any obvious problems, but from time to time Norton Antivirus would pop-up a warning that it was unable to detect its own status, and recommended that I uninstall and reinstall the product. However, an attempt to uninstall Norton failed. I can only assume a virus.

In any event, by this time I was quite miffed at the emergence of such a problem only a week after I'd done a complete format-and-reinstall, and frustrated at my inability to correct the problem. All the other things I had to do came to mind - packing, cleaning, changing addresses, coordinating with movers, starting and cancelling services, Christmas shopping - and I decided that I couldn't deal with all this right now. If it were my own machine, I'd reinstall - again.

And so they plan to find someone else to deal with the problem - their neighbor knows someone who can help. I only wish I had more time, and that I could have saved them the time and possibly the money. I know I did nothing wrong, but I can't help but feel that I've failed.

Comments on Malware 1, Greg 0
Comment Monday, December 27th 2004 by Glenn Hydock
I had a run in with Malware. I bought a copy of a spyware/malware remover and found something like 30 such (Key loggers and other stuff.) I knew for sometime that I must have something that norton was not detecting, my system performance was just going from bad to worse without me adding anything. I got the xoft spyware and Boom I had things that ranged from nuisance to major threat. Things that just resided in memory and who knows what else. It pi$$es me off that not matter where you go in the internet, some freak is looking for a way to mess with your computer. AARRGHH!!! In short I feel for you man. How is CO?
Comment Monday, December 27th 2004 by Greg
You bought spyware removal software?? Aack! The best ones available are free: Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and Destroy. PC Magazine just did reviews on five paid spyware removal utilities and one free one (I forget which of the above) - turns out that the free one performed best, and 3 of the 5 paid ones added malware.

Suggestions to avoid spyware:

  1. Don't use Internet Explorer

  2. Install a firewall, even if it's the windows sp2 firewall

  3. Install and run Ad-Aware or Spybot regularly

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