This Almost Killed My Computer!
by Eric Holmlund
I'm tempted to
introduce this article with "I Told You So - Beware of the
malware or This Could Happen To
With permission form Eric Holmlund, this
article is copied in its entirety from the Mar 2006 Edition #46 of
his "Eric's Tips blog".
It's an excellent case history example of the dangers lurking on the
Internet and it very aptly demonstrates the sophistication and
cleverness of the malcontents and cyber criminals who are polluting
the World Wide Web with Trojans, spyware and worse.
Botnet owners and organized crime, no
longer just adolescent joy seekers, are
out to steal our identities, personal financial information, Social
Security numbers, and safe use of the Internet.
As an experienced web master and Internet Marketer, Eric had the
knowledge and experience that enabled him to take the proper actions
to overcome the infestation in his computer.
many of us are less able to figure out how to respond to Computer
like this, I asked Eric if his complete blog post could be used for
this article - it's loaded with helpful tips.
He generously granted that permission. Be sure to visit his
blog - there's a direct link to it at the end of this article.
... Richard Rossbauer
from Eric's Tips, Special Edition #46
(First published in 2006, some links may be out of date)
This Almost Killed My Computer!
"Earlier this week my computer caught some nasty viruses. It was actually my
fault, but it was a mistake anyone could make.
I went to download some software from what *looked* like a clean site. When
I clicked to download, it asked me to install an ActiveX control. Since this
is a pretty normal occurrence, I said "yes". My Norton antivirus popped up
saying it was unable to block a trojan, and about 5 seconds later the
trojans were working like crazy to infect my entire computer as fast as they
I immediately unplugged my internet connection and disconnected my external
hard drive to make sure the virus couldn't get to my backup.
Admittedly, I had turned off the Windows System Restore function (it was
slowing down my PC), so my two options were to restore the backup from the
external drive, or to fight the infections.
Having been in the web hosting business, I learned that backups are not 100%
reliable, and should be restored only as a last resort. I also didn't like
the thought of losing everything I had worked on since the last backup.
So I decided to fight it head on. Unfortunately, the trojans had installed
all sorts of adware, spyware, malware...the works! This was no small
I had to keep rebooting just to do anything, and when I accessed the
internet I had to close pop-ups every 2 seconds. So I did what most people
probably do in this situation... In a frenzy I bought the first thing that
promised it could help me. Then when it didn't help me, I bought something
This is why I'm writing to you today. I want you to avoid the mistakes I
made, and go directly to what's going to help you.
Now before you read another word, I want to make something clear. I am not
selling or advertising ANYTHING today. I know for a fact that if I told my
readers to buy something that would protect and/or fix their computers,
hundreds would buy it.
That's not what this is about. It's about pointing you in the right
direction so you know where to go if this kind of thing ever happens to you.
First of all, let's talk about what NOT to do.
Don't go buying all sorts of stuff like I did. It probably won't help, so
you don't need to buy it. I bought an anti-malware program, which deleted a
bunch of spyware, but it wasn't able to fix the bad stuff, and I learned
later I could have used something better for free.
I also bought a task manager program called WinTasks Pro, because it
promised to help me regain control of my computer. While it's not designed
to remove any infections, it really did help me block a few of their
processes which in turn allowed me to more easily work on fighting them.
Again, I'm not here to scare you into buying anything today, so if you want
to check it out they have a free trial download here:
WinTasks Pro (sorry -link no longer available).
In case you're interested, I used the "block list" to block certain
processes by name, and I set it so that I had to confirm or deny all new
processes as they started.
Next I went in search of some real help. I came across a bunch more sites
trying to exploit my vulnerable emotions with software scams. If you want to
see a ridiculously long list of spyware removal scams, check out this page:
I found a heaven-sent site amidst the chaos.
Please take a moment to write down or print out this next section, so you've
got it when you need it...
It's called Geeks to Go, and they provide 100% free computer help! I have
absolutely no affiliation with them, and they have no idea I'm giving them a
pitch, but I've got to tell you they're the real deal because they helped
It's volunteer-driven, so I'm sure some helpers are better than others, but
I'll tell you the guy who helped me was a genius.
You can reach the site at:
If you need help with an infection, then the first place you need to go on
their forum is here:
It's a list of steps you need to take BEFORE getting help from them. What
you'll find is a goldmine of 100% free tools and step-by-step directions to
fixing your PC.
I would give links to all of those tools here in my newsletter, but there's
a method to their madness and it's important that you do the steps IN ORDER.
As their site says,
"Please remember, people are helping you for F.R.E.E. Be patient, somebody
will help you as soon as they become available. We all have REAL jobs,
families, have other interests, and may live half way around the world.
Plus, there may be people in front of you waiting for help. Following these
steps will lighten our work load, and allow us to help more members."
Make sure you are very polite, and thank them each time they respond. Most
of the volunteers have a Paypal donation button available. If you want to
get quicker service, you could try what I did... send a PM (personal message
via the forum) to the volunteer who is helping you and let him/her know
you'll give him a tip if you get your problem fixed.
I gave a $25 tip because it sure beats calling in a clueless $100/hour local
repair guy, but I'm sure most of those volunteers would be thrilled with $5
or anything for that matter.
To make a long story short, they helped me kill the infections
systematically, using totally free tools. There's absolutely no way I would
have figured it out on my own.
What to do once you're clean
First of all, it's good to have a backup. You can find external backup
drives online or in your local store. If you're interested in what I've got,
I did a blog entry about it back in January:
Then of course you need a good antivirus program. I used to use Norton, but
my viruses fried it to the point it could no longer validate, so now I'm
trying something called AVG. I've found it's a bit less resource intensive
than Norton anyway. They actually have a free version for home users, but I
upgraded to Pro since I admittedly use my computer for business purposes
(plus it was only like $38 for 2 years).
You can also find a ton of other tips on Geeks to Go's forum for securing
your PC. Stuff like securing your browser, using a firewall, and free adware/spyware
I'd list it all here, but I'm really not the expert...they are. The
important thing for you to take away from this is that you should be
prepared, and have a plan of action if disaster strikes your PC so you don't
go wasting a bunch of money on useless programs.
If you've got any good resource links, stories, comments, or warnings feel
free to post them to my blog. As always you can leave comments in the blog
Have a great day!
Eric Holmlund "
About the Author -
In 1999 Eric
Holmlund taught himself HTML and built his first website
as a tribute to missionaries in France. Over the next several
years he built many websites and tried dozens of business
opportunities. He currently owns and operate more than 50
websites, some of which are pretty big, but the majority are
"mini-sites", which consist of only a few pages. In his blog,
he freely shares much of his knowledge and experience to help
others interested in Internet Marketing.
Thanks for visiting .. . Richard
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