Adware and Internet Explorer

From: Russell (
Date: 07/27/04

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 08:18:11 -0700

>-----Original Message-----
>I have been battling several rounds of infection recently
(various Adware forms-Binet, OMI, Winpup, ClearSearch, as
well as Download.Trojan)
>While Norton Antivirus showed that I was clean, I was
still having problems with pop-ups on Internet Explorer.
Then, Friday I tried to open Explorer and received an
error message which generates a text file(appcompt.txt)
which is rather lengthy and which does not mean much to
>I'm running version 6.0.2600.3 with Windows XP.
>The problem is I don't know if the problem with Internet
Explorer is related to the virus infections or if it is a
side issue. As far as I can tell I've eliminated all
threats from my computer, but I have a nasty feeling that
Norton Antivirus has not detected all infected files. I
finally found directions yesterday to delete id53.exe
(which Norton had not detected), but still cannot open
Internet Explorer. Can anyone steer me in the right
>Many thanks in advance.

You can try the following surjestions (I did not write
this, I copied from a reply in the 'general security
Discussion' newsgroup)

First 5 applications in the spyware section..

If you don't wish to follow all of the advice immediately,
just want to
get rid of your current dilemma, then you are welcome to
scroll down to
the section titled "SPYWARE/ADWARE/POPUPS", where your
problem as
stated should be resolved by the applications and
suggestions found in
that section. If this helps solve your problem then I
again HIGHLY
suggest you follow the rest of the advice below (matter of
fact, I
suggest it either way.)

Suggestions on what you can do to secure/clean your PC.
I'm going to try
and be general, I will assume a "Windows" operating system
is what is
being secured here.


There are annoyances out there you can get without
trying. Your normal web surfing, maybe a wrong click on a
web page, maybe
just a momentary lack of judgment by installing some
software packages
without doing the research.. And all of a sudden your
screen starts filling
up with advertisements or your Internet seems much slower
or your home page
won't stay what you set it and goes someplace unfamiliar
to you. This is
spyware. There are a whole SLEW of software packages out
there to get rid
of this crud and help prevent reinfection. Some of the
products already
mentioned might even have branched out into this arena.
However, there are
a few applications that seem to be the best at what they
do, which is
eradicating and immunizing your system from this crap.
Strangely, the best
products I have found in this category ARE generally
free. That is a trend
I like. I make donations to some of them, they deserve it!

Two side-notes: Never think one of these can do the whole
Try the first 5 before coming back and saying "That did
not work!"
Also, you can always visit:
For more updated information.

 Spybot Search and Destroy (Free!)

 Lavasoft AdAware (Free and up)

 CWSShredder (Free!)

 Hijack This! (Free)
 ( Tutorial: )

 SpywareBlaster (Free!)

 IE-SPYAD (Free!)

 ToolbarCop (Free!)

 Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner (Free!)

 Browser Security Tests

 The Cleaner (49.95 and up)

That will clean up your machine of the spyware, given that
you download and
install several of them, update them regularly and scan
with them when you
update. Some (like SpywareBlaster and SpyBot Search and
Destroy) have
immunization features that will help you prevent your PC
from being
infected. Use these features!

Unfortunately, although that will lessen your popups on
the Internet/while
you are online, it won't eliminate them. I have looked at
a lot of options,
seen a lot of them used in production with people who seem
to attract popups
like a plague, and I only have one suggestion that end up
serving double
duty (search engine and popup stopper in one):

 The Google Toolbar (Free!)

Yeah - it adds a bar to your Internet Explorer - but its a
useful one. You
can search from there anytime with one of the best search
engines on the
planet (IMO.) And the fact it stops most popups - wow -
BONUS! If you
don't like that suggestion, then I am just going to say
you go to and search for other options.

One more suggestion, although I will suggest this in a way
later, is to
disable your Windows Messenger service. This service is
not used frequently
(if at all) by the normal home user and in cooperation
with a good firewall,
is generally unnecessary. Microsoft has instructions on
how to do this for
Windows XP here:


This one is the most obvious. There is no perfect product
and any company
worth their salt will try to meet/exceed the needs of
their customers and
fix any problems they find along the way. I am not going
to say Microsoft
is the best company in the world about this but they do
have an option
available for you to use to keep your machine updated and
patched from
the problems and vulnerabilities (as well as product
improvements in some
cases) - and it's free to you.

 Windows Update

Go there and scan your machine for updates. Always get
the critical ones as
you see them. Write down the KB###### or Q###### you see
when selecting the
updates and if you have trouble over the next few days, go
into your control
panel (Add/Remove Programs), match up the latest numbers
you downloaded
recently (since you started noticing an issue) and
uninstall them. If there
was more than one (usually is), install them back one by
one - with a few
hours of use in between, to see if the problem returns.
Yes - the process
is not perfect (updating) and can cause trouble like I
mentioned - but as
you can see, the solution isn't that bad - and is MUCH
better than the
alternatives. (SASSER/BLASTER were SO preventable with
just this step!)

Windows is not the only product you likely have on your
PC. The
manufacturers of the other products usually have updates
as well. New
versions of almost everything come out all the time - some
are free, some
are pay - some you can only download if you are
registered - but it is best
to check. Just go to their web pages and look under their
support and
download sections.

You also have hardware on your machine that requires
drivers to interface
with the operating system. You have a video card that
allows you to see on
your screen, a sound card that allows you to hear your PCs
sound output and
so on. Visit those manufacturer web sites for the latest
drivers for your hardware/operating system. Always (IMO)
get the
manufacturers hardware driver over any Microsoft offers.
On the Windows
Update site I mentioned earlier, I suggest NOT getting
their hardware
drivers - no matter how tempting.

Have I mentioned that Microsoft has some stuff to help
secure your computer
available to the end-user for free? This seems as good of
a time as any.
They have a CD you can order (it's free) that contain all
of the Windows
patches through October 2003 and some trial products as
well that they
released in February 2004. Yeah - it's a little behind
now, but it's better
than nothing (and used in coordination with the
information in this post,
well worth the purchase price..)

 Order the Windows Security Update CD

They also have a bunch of suggestions, some similar to
these, on how to
better protect your Windows system:

 Protect your PC


Let's say you are up-to-date on the OS (operating system)
and you have
Windows XP.. You should at least turn on the built in
firewall. That will
do a lot to "hide" you from the random bad things flying
around the
Internet. Things like Sasser/Blaster enjoy just sitting
out there in
Cyberspace looking for an unprotected Windows Operating
System and jumping
on it, doing great damage in the process and then using
that Unprotected OS
to continue its dirty work of infecting others. If you
have the Windows XP
ICF turned on - default configuration - then they cannot
see you! Think of
it as Internet Stealth Mode at this point. It has other
advantages, like
actually locking the doors you didn't even (likely) know
you had. Doing
this is simple, the instructions you need to use your
built in Windows XP
firewall can be found here:

If you read through that and look through the pages that
are linked from it
at the bottom of that page - I think you should have a
firm grasp on the
basics of the Windows XP Firewall as it is today. One
thing to note RIGHT
NOW - if you have AOL, you cannot use this nice firewall
that came with
your system. Thank AOL, not Microsoft. You HAVE to
configure another
one.. So we continue with our session on Firewalls...

But let's say you DON'T have Windows XP - you have some
other OS like
Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, 2000. Well, you don't have
the nifty built in
firewall. My suggestion - upgrade. My next suggestion -
look through your
options. There are lots of free and pay firewalls out
there for home users.
Yes - you will have to decide on your own which to get.
Yes, you will have
to learn (oh no!) to use these firewalls and configure
them so they don't
interfere with what you want to do while continuing to
provide the security
you desire. It's just like anything else you want to
protect - you have to
do something to protect it. Here are some suggested
applications. A lot of
people tout "ZoneAlarm" as being the best alternative to
just using the
Windows XP ICF, but truthfully - any of these alternatives
are much better
than the Windows XP ICF at what they do - because that is
ALL they do.

 ZoneAlarm (Free and up)

 Kerio Personal Firewall (KPF) (Free and up)

 Outpost Firewall from Agnitum (Free and up)

 Sygate Personal Firewall (Free and up)

 Symantec's Norton Personal Firewall (~$25 and up)

 BlackICE PC Protection ($39.95 and up)

 Tiny Personal Firewall (~$49.00 and up)

That list is not complete, but they are good firewall
options, every one of
them. Visit the web pages, read up, ask around if you
like - make a
decision and go with some firewall, any firewall. Also,
maintain it.
Sometimes new holes are discovered in even the best of
these products and
patches are released from the company to remedy this
problem. However, if
you don't get the patches (check the manufacturer web page
on occasion),
then you may never know you have the problem and/or are
being used through
this weakness. Also, don't stack these things. Running
more than one
firewall will not make you safer - it would likely (in
fact) negate some
protection you gleamed from one or the other firewalls you
ran together.


That's not all. That's one facet of a secure PC, but
firewalls don't do
everything. I saw one person posting on a newsgroup
that "they had
never had a virus and they never run any anti-virus
software." Yep - I used
to believe that way too - viruses were something everyone
else seemed to
get, were they just stupid? And for the average joe-user
who is careful,
uses their one-three family computers carefully, never
opening unknown
attachments, always visiting the same family safe web
sites, never
installing anything that did not come with their computer -
 maybe, just
maybe they will never witness a virus. I, however, am a
Network Systems
Administrator. I see that AntiVirus software is an
absolute necessity given
how most people see their computer as a toy/tool and not
they should have to maintain and upkeep. After all, they
were invented to
make life easier, right - not add another task to your
day. You
can be as careful as you want - will the next person be as
careful? Will
someone send you unknowingly the email that erases all the
pictures of your
child/childhood? Possibly - why take the chance? ALWAYS
SOFTWARE and KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Antivirus software comes
in so many
flavors, it's like walking into a Jelly Belly store -
which one tastes like
what?! Well, here are a few choices for you. Some of
these are free (isn't
that nice?) and some are not. Is one better than the
other - MAYBE.

 Symantec (Norton) AntiVirus (~$11 and up)

 Kaspersky Anti-Virus (~$49.95 and up)

 Panda Antivirus Titanium (~$39.95 and up)
 (Free Online Scanner:

 AVG 6.0 Anti-Virus System (Free and up)

 McAfee VirusScan (~$11 and up)

 AntiVir (Free and up)

 avast! 4 (Free and up)

 Trend Micro (~$49.95 and up)
 (Free Online Scanner:

 RAV AntiVirus Online Virus Scan (Free!)

Did I mention you have to not only install this software,
but also keep it
updated? You do. Some of them (most) have automatic
services to help you
do this - I mean, it's not your job to keep up with the
half-dozen or more
new threats that come out daily, is it? Be sure to keep
whichever one you
choose up to date!


This one can get annoying, just like the rest. You get 50
emails in one
sitting and 2 of them you wanted. NICE! (Not.) What can
you do? Well,
although there are services out there to help you, some
servers/services that actually do lower your spam with
features built into
their servers - I still like the methods that let you be
the end-decision
maker on what is spam and what isn't. If these things
worked perfectly, we
wouldn't need people and then there would be no spam
anyway - vicious
circle, eh? Anyway - I have two products to suggest to
you, look at them
and see if either of them suite your needs. Again, if
they don't, Google is
free and available for your perusal.

 SpamBayes (Free!)

 Spamihilator (Free!)

As I said, those are not your only options, but are
reliable ones I have
seen function for hundreds+ people.


I might get arguments on putting this one here, but it's
my spill. There are
lots of services on your PC that are probably turned on by
default you don't
use. Why have them on? Check out these web pages to see
what all of the
services you might find on your computer are and set them
according to your
personal needs. Be CAREFUL what you set to manual, and
take heed and write
down as you change things! Also, don't expect a large
performance increase
or anything - especially on todays 2+ GHz machines,
however - I look at each
service you set to manual as one less service you have to
worry about
someone exploiting. A year ago, I would have thought the
Windows Messenger
service to be pretty safe, now I recommend (with addition
of a firewall)
that most home users disable it! Yeah - this is another
one you have to
work for, but your computer may speed up and/or be more
secure because you
took the time. And if you document what you do as you do
it, next time, it
goes MUCH faster! (or if you have to go back and re-enable

 Task List Programs

 Black Viper's Service List and Opinions (XP)

 Processes in Windows NT/2000/XP

There are also applications that AREN'T services that
startup when you start
up the computer/logon. One of the better description on
how to handle these
I have found here:


That's it. A small booklet on how to keep your computer
secure, clean of
scum and more user friendly. I am SURE I missed
something, almost as I am
sure you won't read all of it (anyone for that matter.)
However, I also
know that someone who followed all of the advice above
would also have less
problems with their PC, less problems with viruses, less
problems with spam,
fewer problems with spyware and better performance than
someone who didn't.

Hope it helps.

<- Shenan ->
The information is provided "as is", with no guarantees of
completeness, accuracy or timeliness, and without 
warranties of any
kind, express or implied.  In other words, read up before 
you take any
advice - you are the one ultimately responsible for your