Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hostageware, Spyware, and Trojan Horses

I have been totally trojaned, and not in the condom way, in the Greeks-sneaking-into-your-city-inside-a-horse way. I got a nasty computer virus, I think through a windows media file (which I didn't open on purpose!), which carried in its trojan belly some nasty malware (spyware, tracking cookies, etc.) and some hostageware, which I've never had before and which seems ever so much more offensive than the rest. Hostageware is a particular kind of malware that installs itself on your computer and makes you PAY the creator to have it removed. In my case, it's a "program" called VirusBlast! that claims to be the best virus removal software on the internet. Google the name -- their page is the first listing (for God's sake don't click on it!) and the next 100 or so hits you get are for various sites with instructions on how to remove the VirusBlast! virus. That really pisses me off more than malware normally does; a virus disguised as a virus removal software is just kind of sick.

At any rate, it pops up ads every five minutes telling me to pay $30 for their software to clean up my nastily infected computer (thanks for the virus, VirusAss!). I'm pretty good with computer maintanence stuff, since I'm my own IT department, and I run daily virus scans (McAfee), weekly malware scans (SpyBot S&D and AdAware, both free and you should get them), and weekly CCleaner (also free, deletes cookies, internet history, temp files, etc.). I use Firefox, my security settings are high, my passwords are funky, and I have to approve all cookies. I'm thinking of switching to Kapersky AntiVirus (I think that's how it's spelled) when my McAfee subscription comes up for renewal, which has only 3% market share but catches substantially more viruses than the market leaders (according to Consumer Reports) and updates faster. In other words, I am diligent about this stuff.

I've manage to stop the popups, but VirusBlast and its little trojan buddies are hidden pretty deep in my computer, in things I don't know how to fix without killing the computer, so I'm getting help from the fine folks over at BleepingComputer.

I feel really violated. I'm tech-savvy, so I know how tracking cookies, data-aggregators, and so forth invade my privacy. I know how to manage the level of privacy I require. I resent these intrusions into my life, but I know how to repel them. This, on the other hand, is a nasty attack, an invasion of my personal property, no different from someone breaking-and-entering my home or stealing my car.

I am researching legal precedent for tort actions against virus and malware hijackers in Illinois.

I'll be back to fun blogging again soon, I promise, but for now I have to burn this trojan horse to the ground and spit on its smoldering remains. It's time consuming.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog Eyebrows. Your thoughts and insights are always very sharp.

I would like to offer a solution to your virus/malware/spyware nightmare circus of doom.

I am typing this on the solution. A beautiful, elegant and precise 17" Apple PowerBook.

That's right a Mac.

Any reservation that may be out there I believe I can alleviate. There are so many benefits to the Mac that I truly feel you would enjoy your PC again.

If you have any questions, criticisms or objections I'll be happy to address them.

Thanks,
Stephen

Anonymous said...

Funny -- I was going to say the same thing before I saw the previous post.

Buy a MacBook.

114,000 viruses affected PCs last year. Zero got the Macs.

No spyware problems either.

HeartShadow said...

sue their asses. sue 'em to the ground.

I really REALLY hate people that think going around making a mess for other people is good business OR good entertainment. Slimy little snots.

(and on the mac thing .. there haven't been any viruses or malware YET. I would suspect that's at least in part lack of market penetration by Macs. Make it profitable, and the slime will come).

Eyebrows McGee said...

I vastly prefer Macs. However, I have business reasons for needing to be with a PC at the present.

My next home purchase will probably be a Mac, but for the foreseeable future I will need to maintain a working PC for certain limited business tasks.

Maybe if I sue the malware dudes I'll get enough money off it to buy a new Mac. :)

Anonymous said...

Get a mac, the new intel imacs will run all your windows programs as well.

Stephen said...

I figured there was some specific reason to use a PC over a Mac.

There is almost always a Mac alternative...but I understand it isn't always feasable to change.

You could use a new Intel Mac and have the best of both worlds.

You could use your Mac for everything except your specific business tasks by using Parallels or Boot Camp. Parallels will allow you to run other operating systems on your Mac in a separate window and Apple's Boot Camp allows you to reboot into Windows.

parallels.com/en/products/desktop/

apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/

If you want to see something really cool watch this video that combines a MacBook, Parallels and VirtueDesktops (http://virtuedesktops.info/about/).

youtube.com/watch?v=gE1XQyT_IbA

Thanks,
Stephen

Eyebrows McGee said...

well, cost issue. I don't run around springing for new computers on a daily basis. :)

When I bought this computer, Mac/PC cross-platform compatibility was still fairly low and I HAD to have a PC to function on the network I had to use at that time (so. lame.). It's improved a lot since then. I believe I would have a small handful of backwards compatibility issues, but that's why I'd maintain this as a beater PC after getting the new Mac. I'm fairly confident I could do 99% of my computing tasks on a Mac with the newer emulators.

Again, though, since the need isn't direly imminent, I've got other cash-requiring priorities to get through first.

Anonymous said...

Eyebrows,
The thing about viruses that really gets me is that they are so invasive. We have had some pretty serious viruses that took my IT person, (husband) a week to clean up. You are right, it does feel violating. Don't these people have better things to do? I would like to add to Stephen's comment by saying you my favorite Peoria blogger. You are funny, insightful and intelligent.
Peggy

Anonymous said...

Eyebrows,
The thing about viruses that really gets me is that they are so invasive. We have had some pretty serious viruses that took my IT person, (husband) a week to clean up. You are right, it does feel violating. Don't these people have better things to do? I would like to add to Stephen's comment by saying you my favorite Peoria blogger. You are funny, insightful and intelligent.
Peggy

Anonymous said...

you get the horse, from porn sites...so slow your roll.

Scott J said...

I went years without getting a virus, until I picked up that Hook...Oh, sorry wrong virus. Anywhoo, I had a bad pop-up viri also, I finally broke down and bought PC Tools Software "Spy Doctor" and "Registry Cleaner" and it fixed it right away. You will have to go into your Reg to fix this. Good Luck.

Emtronics said...

Anyone heard of an Anti-Virus? I have run the same A/V for years. (since 1991) and I have never been infected. I have seen where my A/V spotted it and killed it but never infected. Here's the link. It's free for 1 year. Infected? Remove your old A/V and install eTrust. Update it and run it. Problem solved. www.my-etrust.com/microsoft

Emtronics said...

www.microsoft.com and look for Windows Defender Beta2. It is also FREE and a great tool for spyware.

Emtronics said...

Oops, they changed the name of eTrust to CA Anti-virus. Sorry..

Jackie said...

Do you have firewalls, hard and soft?