since the golden age of malware
Wednesday, July 10 2013
Late last night Ray had sent me an email wanting some emergency help with a virus-infected computer over at restaurant where he seems to gradually be taking over. It was a little annoying to get such a request on the eve of the day I needed to prepare for my drive to Virginia, but I agreed to a visit to do the virus removal. When I told Gretchen about all that this morning, she was dismayed that yet again Ray had only contacted us because he needed something. My attitude by that point was to just shrug and as if to say "whattaya gonna do?" I also announced that I would be going over to the restaurant at 2:30pm. By this point it was just another thing I had to do before I left for Virginia.
The computer in question was running Windows XP and had been taken over by a program that claimed to be an antivirus application, although the wording of its error messages were suspect. One listed a number of infections and supposed instances of crapware using the phrase "totally unnecessary." There was no way to close the program; every time I tried to go into the task manager, it was terminated within seconds. Even if I'd wanted to buy whatever flim flam solution the infection had been designed to sell, I don't think the computer would have been capable of allowing a purchase. The reason the computer was in such bad shape was that a 11 or 12 year old child had been allowed to play on it unsupervised (and uneducated). I could start the computer up in Safe Mode, but nothing I did there allowed me to boot it into a usable mode other than Safe Mode. The solution was to use Safe Mode to archive the infected user profile, create a new one from scratch, and then boot into that. From there, I could copy over desktop and My Documents files and make it generally resemble the way it had been pre-infection. I also had to get rid of various hooks in the DNS system that was forcing the links produced by Google searches to go to various paid advertisers (including, disgustingly enough, Norton Antivirus). I haven't seen a computer so messed up by malware since the golden age of malware (circa 2004).
After my mission was done at the restaurant, I drove out to 9W to get supplies, including cheap Mountain Brew Beer Ice from Stewarts and 160 proof Devil's Springs vodka from the liquor store. I also got some batteries and a hanging plant pot from Home Depot (we have a young spider plant in need of a home).
I should mention that Stewarts seems to have redesigned their Mountain Brew Beer Ice product line. It's gone from 5.4% alcohol to 5.9%, and the crappy Comic Sans lettering on the cans has been replaced with some sort of serif font and an icy mountain in light blue (similar to the design of a Busch can, but more pastel). The little icons of people doing various sports remain, though they are in a different order and there is now a greater variety of icons.
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