Sunday, January 9, 2011

Computer Protection

Or something like it, anyway. That's what I need.

For the second time (almost one year apart), I have "caught" a malware virus on my computer.

I know exactly how it happens. I get sloppy. I use Google to search for something, then go to untrustworthy websites one of which invariably has the malware. It happened to me in Jan 2010, and I was a good boy for 12 months. Then, I got sloppy last night and went to sites I shouldn't have. And got bit again.

The way I know I've caught something is several-fold:

- I keep getting the message "Windows can't find hard disk space. Hard drive error."

- I get error messages when I try to run virtually any application saying application failed.

- A phony "System Defragmenter" tries to run, and gives phony error messages (see FAKE illustration below)

- Strange sounds - odd clips of commercials, etc - come out of my speakers

Last year, I had success with Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware in getting rid of it. But, since the malware virus blocks running programs, Anti-Malware wouldn't run until I used something called "RKill" first. Once I ran RKill followed by Anti-Malware, I was virus free.

So this year, I decided to do the same thing. I got the latest RKill and Anti-Malware versions (from the Malwarebyte site, so I knew I wasn't being tricked into getting yet another virus) and ran them. Everything looked great.

Until I started doing Google search. For example, when I ran the search shown to the left and clicked on the first link (which looks like it would take me to the Malwarebyte site), I was being redirected to other sites that were very shady. Unfortunately, these sites were loading me back up with viruses again.

So I was back at square one. Using another uninfected computer, I searched around and found a few products that were said to get rid of the Google redirection problem. The problem is, they didn't get rid of it.

Out of sheer frustration, I decided I was going to reload my computer from scratch. I've been good and have all my data backed up, so it would simply be a matter of reinstalling the OS and the handful of programs I use. Not too painful, eh?

Normally, it isn't too painful. But with my computer infected, it was not straightforward. Then I made a discovery. Under Assessories -> System Tools -> System Restore, it asked me if I wanted to restore my system to an earlier date. Since I had never created a checkpoint, I figured this would not work but hey, it couldn't hurt to try. So I picked a day a couple of days before I got infected and did a restore. And guess what? It worked! I am now virus free! No more redirects either!

Thank you Microsoft!

So now I'm very happy. And I'm double checking my virus protection software to ensure it is up-to-date. Just so you know, no one product catches all viruses. It doesn't matter if you use Norton, McAfee, or Trend Micro, some things are going to get through. Some estimates are that these protection packages catch just 60% of the viruses active on the internet. Just make sure your backups are current and you have the CDs for any software you may have to case you have to reformat your drive.

I know this isn't a sexy topic, but it is a necessary one to keep your computer healthy.

1 comment:

J said...

PS - you may be wondering why someone would go through all the trouble of creating sophisticated malware like that. Well, there is a good reason.

Some users are not very sophisticated, and they fall for the fake messages. If you click on "OK" and "accept", it will eventually lead you to a site where you can enter a credit card number to buy a "fix" to the problem. And that's how these virus creators make their money. Don't feed them!