Spyware, Adware, and Malware, oh my!

I’m an experienced Adware/Spyware/Malware guy and have removed more of the little buggers than most. I had an encounter with one over the weekend, and thought I’d share this with my readers, in the off chance that it might help somebody.

There is no way to prevent this stuff, at least not yet. If you land on a Website that has one of these, the executable file is, well, executed, and the software begins loading on your computer. You can also pick them up during file sharing, viewing videos, listening to music, or any other application that “connects” your computer to another. It’s a Windows problem, because they’re generally written to exploit Windows applications. I was doing some research on Internet Television for a column and picked this one up in so doing. I watched a few samples of Internet TV, and one of them was obviously the source.

You may not realize anything is happening when you first encounter the download. In my case, lots of action screens began popping up, and I knew I’d hit upon something nasty. It took me nearly 24 hours to completely rid myself of the files and programs that had been loaded in the instant I’d happened upon it. The most common symptom is a browser or search function that isn’t the way you remember it. In this case, I also had software such as “Time Synchronizer” and “Lycos Search” added to my hard drive.

I used the following software to remove everything:

AdAware 6.0
CWShredder
HijackThis
Spybot.

Mostly, though, it was my knowledge from having been through this before that cleaned my computer. I knew where to look for files that HijackThis wouldn’t clean. This is knowledge not everyone possesses, and that’s why the good folks at Lavasoft (makers of AdAware) Support exist. They can help where others can’t, and I recommend everybody bookmark their site.

I believe the companies that use this method of attaching software to unknowing computers as a way of marketing themselves are run by the lowest life forms on the planet. The Justice Department should be spending its time eliminating these bastards from our society rather than worrying about teenagers who pirate a song now and then.

Comments

  1. You might want to do two more things.

    1) Google “stinger”; you should find a McAfee site with Stinger downloadable A/V software. This kills the top 41 or so viruses; use it if you pick up a bug that blocks the big name A/V packages. (Been there, done that, want to slap my boss’s fingers for surfing-while-stupid…).

    2) Consider loading another browser, like Firefox or Netscape. Much of the bad stuff out there targets MSIE. This is my next plan of attack, getting a backup browser.

    Good luck!

  2. also, if you haven’t already, install a popup blocker. this is a must have to help stop automatic loading of bad stuff when you visit a site.

    toolbar.google.com..or use the above mentioned (and excellent) FireFox.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I’ve resisted pop-up blockers for two reasons. One, I need to experience them in order to adequately write about them. Two, as a Web developer, I’m sick that pop-up blockers don’t discriminate between pop-up ads and legitimate uses of the technology that can enhance a user’s experience.

  4. Terry, I understand what you mean about blockers blocking legit uses of popups, but, at least for me, I like to only pop windows that *I* initiate. Anything popping automatic could be hazardous.

    From my experience with Google toolbar, it doesn’t block popups that are user initiated. Like, javascript in a text link (href=“javascript:open(‘foo.html’)”)

    I know I’m probably overly paranoid, but I never thought I’d rely on a popup blocker more for security (along with a firewall, virus scanner and spyware killer etc.) than just stopping those pesky X.11 ads. 🙂

  5. doh, i mean “those pesky X10 ads.” see i’ve been blocking them for so long i forgot what they were called!

    🙂

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