Re: spyware is ruining my computer
From: Shenan Stanley (news_helper_at_hushmail.com)
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 00:13:59 -0500
> I seemed to have picked up a trojan virus. It is one of those what
> says: you have to download "SPY WARE"
> I always refused to download that thing. My Norton antivirus has been
> quarentining the virus. So far 70 copies of it has been quarentined.
> The problem is that the function of my computer has been going down.
> It is now to the point that I can no longer surf the internet b/c
> internet explorer locks up.
> Do you think I should have downloaded spyware? What is spyware? I
> figured that it was another virus that the first trojan horse is just
> trying to get me to dl a bigger virus.
> Also, even tho norton has been putting these viruses in quarentine,
> they still continue to damage my computer.
> So, I am now to the point where I have to format my harddrive and
> reinstall everyhting. It is going ot be a pain in the butt.
> any help? Any one know more about htis spyware thing?\
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 job.
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)
Hijack This! (Free)
( Tutorial: http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/htlogtutorial.html )
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
www.google.com 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:
UPDATES and PATCHES
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.
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
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 downloadable
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 something
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 RUN ANTIVIRUS
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)
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!
SPAM EMAIL/JUNK MAIL
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 email
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.
As I said, those are not your only options, but are reliable ones I have
seen function for hundreds+ people.
DISABLE (Set to Manual) UNUSED SERVICE/STARTUP APPS
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 things..)
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", it is suggested you research for yourself before you take any advice - you are the one ultimately responsible for your actions/problems/solutions. Know what you are getting into before you jump in with both feet.