Infected While Protected!

Charlie’s computer had a McAffee antivirus suite installed. McAffee didn’t stop Charlie from getting his PC infected.

My friend Big John called from Florida a few weeks ago. He needed a favor. His brother’s computer was acting up. Would I take a look?

I’d crawl over broken glass for John so this wasn’t really a problem.

John and his brother Charlie are identical twins. They are tall and broad with deep, booming voices. John moved south while Charlie stayed put.

His PC is a nice middle-of-the-road Dell Dimension 4000. It’s got a 2.8 gHz P4 CPU, a hard drive large enough for Charlie but smaller than anything you can buy today and 1.25 Gb RAM. That odd number usually means the integrated video card shares some system memory.

Here’s the truth. Unless you’re a gamer or doing heavyweight photo/video work a system like Charlie’s is still just fine. And unlike mechanical devices a computer doesn’t slow with age. Slow is a fixable problem.

Charlie’s computer had deteriorated to crawl mode. When I booted it I immediately got a few error messages from dll’s identified with a virus! There were extra toolbars on the web browser. Strange pop-ups appeared. None of this was welcome news.

As a precaution I hadn’t plugged the computer into my network. In retrospect that was a pretty good decision.

Charlie’s computer had a McAffee antivirus suite installed. McAffee didn’t stop Charlie from getting his PC infected.

I’m not a fan of virus protection. I’ll go a step further–I think it’s a waste of money! Most of my machines go without and stay uninfected. If you click without reading (or thinking) or if you practice slutty computing, you’re going to end up catching something regardless.

Sadly, virus protection can’t protect you from you! There are a lot of dishonest people in this world and they all seem to know how to code for Windows and how to entice you into installing their wares.

I’m not sure I can describe my recovery methods except to say I turned a lot of stuff off, uninstalled a bunch of programs including McAffee and then installed and ran Windows Security Essentials and CrapCleaner (it’s now known as CCleaner, but we go way back so I get to use the original name).

Windows Security Essentials is free and has gotten pretty good reviews. It found “RegCure” and “Zango.” right off the bat. They’re now banished.

At the moment Charlie’s computer seems to be chugging along nicely. He’s got a sweet little Western Digital “My Passport Essentials” backup drive which had never been used! It’s currently backing up the system.

It’s not Charlie’s fault he’s not a computer expert. Why should he be? You don’t have to be Henry Ford to drive a car.

Windows computers (less so now with Vista and Windows 7) make it too easy for a basic user to harm his own machine. There are so many cryptic warnings that most people just click right through them! Macs and Linux machines probably aren’t any more secure, but they’re less fertile targets so there’s aren’t as many viruses.

The good news is the computer is now working the way it’s supposed to. The bad news is I disinfect, I don’t immunize against further infection.

5 thoughts on “Infected While Protected!”

  1. Another good tool I’ve used is combofix from

    Anti-virus software is only as good as what they know about.

  2. Last fall, my Dell Inspiron laptop got a trojan from a hotel Internet connection, despite having up-to-date Norton *and* Avast, AdBlock Plus enabled with pop-ups blocked on Firefox, never ever opening up IE, and never opening anything from someone I didn’t know or a site I didn’t trust.

    After spending two solid weeks getting to the point where I could boot my computer up again, I finally went over to the Mac side of the Force. I’m never, ever going back.

    1. Meredith – This is very unlikely (nearly impossible) on an up-to-date system. Yes, there was a time when this was the norm, but not for years. I feel bad for you, but I suspect you’ve convinced yourself of something that probably didn’t happen as you think.

      Your Inspiron probably has the original OS on a backup partition. If you’re interested in getting it back to its pure and virginal state let me knowa nd I’ll give you what assistance I can.

  3. Meredith,

    That’s like saying I had an accident in my Ford so I bought a Saab. Sure Saab’s have less accidents, because there are less of them on the road. As Geoff said “Macs and Linux machines probably aren’t any more secure, but they’re less fertile targets so there’s aren’t as many viruses.”

    Chances are if you had been using a *good* firewall you wouldn’t have been infected. Sounds like someone got into your machine.

    If all else failed, a clean format and reinstall should have had your Dell back up good as new in about an hour.

    Me? I’m a PC. But I do wish you the best with your new Mac!


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