Saturday, April 24, 2010

Witz DOESN'T Pick: Viruses

Everyone I know has been sick recently. I've had a clingy sore throat for the last two weeks, my roommates have been fighting off the same sort of thing, my sister has been sick, and even my family's cat, Tucker, has worms, which inspired my dad to write this note to my mom: "TUCKER BARFED WORMS LAST NIGHT (SEE PYREX DISH WITH SARAN WRAP)--DO NOT WALK BAREFOOT DOWNSTAIRS (BASEMENT) I WILL CALL ANIMAL GENERAL." Yikes. CSI n' shit. Thirty years of marriage full of pet stains, meal preparation and notes like that-- that's impressive, right?

On top of the sick people, my dad's desktop computer died, my sister's laptop got a virus, and apparently, they've all been sharing water bottles because yesterday, my laptop announced that it, too, had a virus. I am Witz's complete lack of surprise.

The virus began when some software I didn't recognize popped up, announcing that my computer had said virus. More and more warnings popped up, programs crashed, and the software kept announcing that, apparently, every program I had was infected and wouldn't open, and that if I wasn't a complete fuckup, I'd pay whatever was necessary to upgrade from the demo version so I could actually get rid of whatever was attacking my computer.

I fully believed that I could have a virus-- after all, I skipped activating my free trial of Norton that came with my computer because Norton's like the lame guy in a group that NEVER wants to do ANYTHING fun. "Nah, don't go to that site, man, let's just hang here at the homepage tonight," and, "I don't know why, but I just don't TRUST that software...even if it is Microsoft Word," and my personal favorite, "Look, I just want to make sure you're positive you want to allow INTERNET explorer to connect to the INTERNET. Are you suuure??"

In addition, I stupidly clicked on an email link that I thought was from a friend right before reading his apology email telling everyone not to click on the link, so it could have been from that. The last possibility is my Dad's favorite: MP3's. My dad blames MP3's for things the way some people blame the jews, black people, and illegal immigrants. If anything goes wrong with my sister's or my computer, it's those damn MP3's fault. Not enough space on the harddrive? Those MP3's taking up all the space. He acts as if computer viruses, malicious software, poverty, joblessness, and the damn liberal media didn't exist before MP3's. He's mostly wrong, and I don't want him to have his beliefs confirmed, but it is a possibility. So, there are plenty of reasons why I could have had a virus on my laptop-- but this wasn't my first rodeo.

I know about health issues because my health has been terrible, I know about cars because of all the times my car has broken down, and I know about computers because of years upon years of talking with tech support. When I tried to run my other anti-virus software, I was told that the program was infected and couldn't open. So I rebooted in safe mode, and banged out a few scans. Nothing found. I went back to the regular boot and watched everything freak out again. I turned on my Norton trial and ran that back in safe mode-- nothing found. Reboot and suddenly the sky is falling again: warnings, windows crashing, programs failing, and constantly, message after message informing me of malicious viruses invading my computer. I would close all the warnings and try to turn off the software, but it would lead to another slew of messages. I felt like I was in a bad '80's movie, or The Warriors, or Rumble Fish or something:

"There's a virus man, a virus that's gonna ruin our group!"
"Calm down, Billy."
"No way, man, can't you feel it? It's tearing us apart!"
"No, Danny, I can't sit around letting this happen!"
"BILLY! Don't you get it, man? YOU'RE the virus. It's you."

My browsers wouldn't open, so I rebooted in "safe mode with networking," tweaked the LAN settings, and got on google. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Antispyware Soft. One of many malicious anti-spyware programs, it downloads and installs itself, and proceeds to inform you of fictional threats and viruses. It blocks programs, crashes browsers, alters .dll files, pees on your face and tells you that it's raining. Fortunately, there are programs like Spyware Doctor that can go in and fix everything. Ironically, to avoid having to buy this software, you can find a free crack code on the same sketchy sites that probably gave you a virus in the first place. Oh, The Internet.

Just as quickly as everything went to hell, everything was back to normal. My laptop runs fine, my throat still hurts, and Tucker's still vomiting worms (possibly the worst thing ever-- can you imagine throwing up WORMS? WORMS?? That's ALMOST as bad as giving birth on the toilet when you didn't know you were pregnant). Now, if only Witz Pickz would go viral...

New On Fox: Spyware MD...solving mal-ware mysteries the way Sherlock Holmes solves regular mysteries,


Quiddity said...

I have AVG on an XP and got Antispyware Soft eary this Sunday. I had been browsing only decent sites (no adult or gaming), but wonder if an MP3 podcast from a legit radio station may have had it. Some reports say Antispyware Soft can come via ads on webpages. I don't know what it is, but it's a nasty one. It's always a good idea to have Malwarebytes Anti-Malware on your machine, especially if you Internet access is blocked by the virus/trojan.

Phoenix said...

This advice is for people running Windows (of course).

1. If your hardware supports it, and it is economical to do so, upgrade to Windows 7 if you're not running it already. With W7, Microsoft introduces their revolutionary new Non-Shitty™ security model. Leagues better than XP can ever be.

2. If you're running Internet Explorer, two things:
a) Upgrade to to IE8, if you haven't already.
b) Stop using Internet Explorer.
Why did I tell you to upgrade if you're not going to use it? Because some poorly-implemented software and systems are designed (stupidly) to rely on IE, and will use whatever is installed. So upgrade to get IE8's improved security, but don't use it directly because even the improved security is crap compared to alternatives.

Instead, use Chrome, Firefox, or Opera (don't use Safari, the Windows version is buggy and security-flawed). Actually, just use Chrome (the *only* unhacked browser in this year's Pwn2Own). The sandbox protects SO MUCH it's ridiculous. But then you miss out on all the features of Firefox...

3. If you ARE going to use Firefox:
a) Put NoScript on there, and learn how to use it.
b) Install an Ad-Blocker. I know, it sucks to break web revenue models, but a lot of malware gets through via ads. That's the sad reality of it.
Firefox + NoScript + AdBlock will defeat 99% of web malware.

4. Get a good firewall. I recommend COMODO. It's free, and also comes with Defense+, which can Sandbox your programs. Much better than ZoneAlarm (another free, and once-great-but-now-in-decline piece of software). Noisy at first, but quieter as you teach it how to behave, and GREATLY increases your security.

5. Get a good anti-virus program. I currently recommend Avast! (the exclamation mark is part of the title, don't blame me blame society). It currently (as of the end of 2009) catches more malware, faster, using fewer resources, than any other free anti-virus (the crown previously held by AVG, which is currently in decline but I fully hope they will rally one of these days).

6. Finally, get some anti-malware software. Make sure you're running Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSR) and Windows Defender. Both are free and neither runs resident, sucking up resources. (You can also get Security Essentials, but turn off real-time antivirus, that's what you have Avast! for). Microsoft's stuff is surprisingly non-crappy, considering the source. Followup with Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (the free version, not the pay version. You don't want it running resident anyway), and SuperAntiSpyware (again, free version for the same reasons). You can throw in Spybot Search And Destroy (again, turn off real-time protection) and Spyware Blaster, because sometimes they'll catch what others miss. Don't bother with the old king AdAware anymore, it's grown bloated and slow.

Everything I've recommended is free or has a legitimate free version. Don't pay for anti-malware, most of those are scams (I don't just mean the obvious Anti-Spyware Soft, Antivirus Soft, or Antivirus Suite scams). Don't run Norton Anything these days. Uninstall that shit. Symantec has completely ruined the once-proud Norton name.

It seems like a lot of stuff to do, but once you're set up, your computer has a set of armor. Pretty much nothing is getting through that.

(For the record, you can only get infected by executable code. MP3s don't have executable code. [You can still be infected by MP3 player software, or ads on a webcast page])