Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Last night, just about half past ten, it didn't start raining men. Instead a series of pop ups began to appear on my screen and a shield icon which said 'Security Tool' appeared on my desktop and a further two on my task bar. I had been infected by a spyware virus which kept flashing messages which said my laptop had been infected by dozens of horrible and quite frightening viruses, trojans, data stealing applications and the like. A moment later and all the icons on my desktop disappeared and my screensaver - a great photo of the Lovely G - turned completely black.

As I have Norton anti-virus I wasn't best pleased and quickly ran a scan which identified the threat and quarantined it, notifying me that everything was now 'ticketty-boo' as we sometimes say in this neck of the woods. { well, ok - as I sometimes say - happy now?} I reapplied the background and was looking around to find out where all the pesky desktop icons had gone when my screen again flashed up a message 'STAND BY - INSTALLING SECURITY TOOL', and true to its word the same damned icons reappeared smugly on my desktop and toolbar and once again began flashing me dialogue boxes saying that my laptop was suffering from everything except bubonic plague and that all I had to do was hit this little button to make them all go away. I again ran the security scan and it once more dutifully removed the offending items and told me that all was once again well in the world only for the virus to reinstall or reboot itself.

This was a first for me. I have never had any problems like this. Like most of us I have a security system and have had the security updates that tell me that the routine scan has found and fixed threats but to be honest, I've never felt very threatened by it and largely ignored them. After all you buy and install one of the best systems so you are covered for any eventuality, right?  I felt panicky and a bit sick at the impact of this attack. There is lots of stuff on my laptop that I haven't backed up and lots of stuff that I would be devastated to lose. I also worried that as I was working on the blog at the time the whole thing kicked off that I might find problems here too - I have heard tales of deleted blogs and system errors which effectively close blogs off along with other scary tales.

Good and Evil...

Despite evidence to the contrary I kept trying the system scan and fix route again and again to no avail. Every time it was deleted it simply reinstalled itself again, each time seemingly just a bit smugger and a bit more threatening. When I tried to contact Norton help the program became non responsive and after a few times like this I was really beginning to lose my cool. When I did get a Norton screen successfully connected the spyware pop ups came right across the top and I couldn't get them moved into the background so I could use the screens I wanted.

"BUGGER!  BUGGER!  BUGGER!"  I wailed like a demented Hugh Grant until I eventually managed to get a screen and connected to Norton's chat help facility. Once there I had to part with hard - or at least virtual and secure -cash to access their virus removal service and ended up chatting with a very helpful chap in India who really knew his stuff. Despite this it took nearly two hours to get to the stage where he could assure me that everything was fixed and that I should have a look around my most used programmes to check if everything was there and in full working order, by which time it was 3.30am. {for once being an insomniac has a plus side!}

Sometimes you need someone to lean on

I'm relieved and grateful that Norton managed to help me in my {wee small} hour of need. A bit peeved that whatever it was got by them in the first place too but 'hey-ho' at least it's gone away.

The kind Norton gent left me with some hints and tip which I thought I would share below. Most of it is basic common sense. There are also some 'best practice' tips on care of your pc.

I'm really glad that I'm able to say I'll see you later blogger pals.

Some things are worth celebrating


1. Do not give your email credentials to anyone that you don’t trust. When you decide to give your email address to a website, first read the privacy or guest email usage to ensure that your email is safe.

2. Don’t reply to spam message. When you reply to a spam message, you are confirming your email address to spammer legitimacy.

3. While using your email id for any online transactions, check if there is an additional/alternate service.

4. Do not post your email in a website, or in any place that can be known by public like in newsgroup, contact list, Chat room etc. By doing so, you are inviting a spammer to send spam to your email.

5. Do not open any spam email. It will alert the spam server that your email is being used.

6. When you are asked to type your email ID in an online form, like comment form etc, use fake email address, if you are not comfortable to give your email address.

7. Understanding the nature of the attachment is the first step towards email safety. Any executable type attachment has the potential to be infected. This covers a wide range of extensions. By default, Windows suppresses file extensions. Hence it is very important to ensure that the file extension viewing is enabled.

8. If you do not need the attachment, don't open it. Delete the email instead.

9. Visit the Windows update site monthly to ensure all necessary patches are installed.

10. Please visit these web pages for tips that can help you avoid further infections on your computer:

Please visit these web pages for tips that can help you avoid further infections on your computer:






• Add more system RAM

• Take a break if you have been at the computer for an hour or more. Give your eyes a rest.

• Add an external Hard Drive or an additional internal Hard Drive to store files. The main hard drive can crash without notice and the chance of losing personal files is high.

• Beware of pop up windows on the internet. Many pop ups are false advertising and a gateway to Spyware, viruses and adware.

• If you are not using your computer it is a good idea to turn it off to help preserve the life expectancy.

• Never spray or squirt any type of liquid onto any computer component. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth and then use that cloth to rub down the component.

• Only turn the computer off by the power switch as a *last resort*. Turning the computer off by the power button while a window is writing to the hard drive COULD damage the drive.

• When you have many windows open and want to view the desktop press the 'WINDOWS KEY' and 'D'

• Never download an email attachment that comes from someone you do not know.

• Keep Internet Explorer/Firefox search toolbars (EX: Yahoo, Google, MSN LIVE). The toolbar provided by the web browser is more then enough.

• Free software does not always mean its good software. Beware what you download and install. Free software has a higher rate of Spyware and adware being attached to it. Not all free software is bad software; just know what you are downloading.

• Do not block the fans or vents on the computer. Air needs to get inside to keep things cool.

• To help reduce wires and cords add items like a wireless mouse or keyboard.

• Never use a vacuum to clean the inside of the computer. Use a can of compressed air if you want to clean the dust out.

• Keep food and drinks away from the computer.

• Add numbers and symbols (Example - @#$*) to passwords. A strong password is a safe password.

• Use surge protector to help prevent damage from power fluctuations


Unknown said...

Hello Al I hope you and G are well? Good advice indeed, but if you will allow me my tuppence worth...

What you contracted was not a virus and hence not effectivley stopped by many AV offerings. It was what we call scareware. It does no actual damage but tries to scare you in to purchasing software you dont need, often in order to rip off your credit card details.

It is doubtful you contracted it by way of an attachement but rather via a website that was infected.

It annoys me that the likes of Norton charge you for an often ineffective AV scanner and then charge you for removeing malware that their scanner couldn't stop.

Take my advice and don't renew it when it is due but rather use something like Avast, which is free for personal use and will stop the likes of your infection before you contract it.

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

Wow. That's a lot of info and thank you for sharing. I know the fear you experienced and the headache that ensues after! I am glad, however to hear that you were able to fix it and that you're still here :) Take care...and be careful!

lom said...

As you say bugger, we use Avira and that has been quite good. I shouldn't have said that should I?

coastkid said...

sounds like what my pc got a month back Al, except AVG free couldnt get rid of it,£35 at Lothian Computers and a 5 hour turn around sorted it,and cleaned up as few bugs,whatever they did sped up my PC again!, i think i opened some film sent from someone on facebook, now i dont open anything that looks iffy, i dont buy anything with cards online now either,only paypal,so no ebay sales no online pocket money!

Alistair said...

Hi all, thank for the tips and the concern. Strangely I had already decided not to renew the Norton which is due next month but to look for other alternatives.

Thanks for the hint - and the clarification - Jono.

Everything is happily back to normal so far!

Anonymous said...

I've gotten something similar a couple times. I'm bad and watch tv shows & movies online. I too was told I had every computer virus known to man (and then some). I just did a system restore every time and that got rid of it when my virus scanner could not (AVG here, ZoneAlarm as well).

Scottish Nature Boy said...

Al, taking a lead from your post, I can only say "holy cow"! I too have restored to an earlier system point in similar circumstances (while keeping fingers crossed and holding my breath, which seemed to help). Will now take a look at avast, as recommended by jono. Hope you're properly clear of it now! Cheers, SNB

Alistair said...

Hi Breagha, It's certainly scary for someone a un-computer-literate a me tat for sure.

SNB - the crossing of fingers and holding the breath thing I certainly did.....

.....it's not conducive to focus and accurate typing though!!!

Alistair said...

oops...some of my keys are sticking.....

Kadeeae said...

Had something like this ages ago and not only frustrating, it can be a bit frightening - not knowing what will be left when all is finally fixed.

Glad that all is well now, and the mantra is what?

Yep - backup, backup, backup :-)

The Scudder said...

I'm a bit tail end Charlie here Al but just to throw in a last ha'penny worth ,,
a) agree with Jono, dump the expensive Norton ( and don't be tempted by McAfee either ! )
b) I too bank with AVG free and it's been very good. I also have the Zone Alarm Fire Wall.
c) Finally I urge you too .,., follow Kadeeae's Mantra ,,,Backup, backup, backup !
Anyway, glad you came thro' your "illness" ok :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reminders. We have had similar problems in the past. I think I will go back some stuff up.

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