Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 986 | Monday, May 29 2006
It has taken fully a week to recover from a spyware virus attack on my computer Sunday evening, May 21. Though I've downloaded hundreds of infected emails over the past year with none of them infecting my system, this one probably got in through a self-executing application on a popup web page that opened in the background while I was using the computer over the weekend.
I had traveled to Southern California with my son Mike and his fiance, Tracey, to attend their engagement party at Tracey's parents' home in Simi Valley, near Los Angeles. I was staying at a motel with free wireless Internet service and had rejoiced in this first opportunity to use such a service with my laptop, after having seen it advertised by motels for several years. (I had previously used pay wireless Internet at Starbucks locations, but not ones that come with the price of a room at a motel.) My personal laptop has a plug-in wireless receiver (rather that a built-in one), possibly indicating that its security firewall is less reliable than the built-in wireless in the laptop I use for my employment. When I tried to connect at the motel, I had a popup saying that it was blocked from connecting by the firewall, with a box to click to disable the firewall. I did. There was no evidence of the attack the first night or even the second on the road, but as soon as I reconnected my computer on the wired highspeed connection back at home Sunday evening, I started getting popup warnings from the Microsoft system that it was under attack.
It was already too late. I quickly ran Pest Patrol, which almost immediately found the main culprit, a spyware trojan called CWS, which stands for "Cool Web Sites." Yeah, right. And the trojan, which (like spyware in general) gets in through websites that have been hijacked by the perpetrator of the trojan, was quickly importing other viruses. Pest Patrol eventually found six viruses, and eliminated all of them, but could not eliminate CWS itself. And not only would CWS quickly reimport other viruses if I kept using the computer to go onto the Internet, it directly attacked Internet Explorer (my browser) making it impossible to use for anything other than the web sites "it" wanted me to visit. I knew, of course, better than do that.
When Pest Patrol proved not up to the task I used my work computer, as my own was useless at this point, to download a virus eliminating tool that spent a lot more time looking than Pest Patrol had, and rather than a half dozen infections found some 330 infected files in my C drive. I kept working at it through the week, making progress but not eliminating the main culprit, CWS. When I met son Mike on Friday for coffee, he said he'd had the same trojan attack and had had to reinstall his system software. I looked for the system disks that came with my laptop and finally found them and used them to reformat my C drive and reinstall the Microsoft Operating System.
This finally got rid of CWS late on Friday. But now I had lost some of my vital software and many of the dozens of minor conveniences we add to our systems and take for granted after we've used them for a while, like favorites lists for the web sites you use constantly. So over the weekend I continued to restore my system by restoring software like my web page design application, the application that lets me publish pages to the web, and other items.
I'm sharing this because I remember how helpful I found it to read David Caldwell's accounts of his virus problems when he was a regular contributor to this forum. The main difference now is that attacks are mainly through spyware, which are web pages, rather than viruses contained in email. There's no guarantee you won't catch a spyware trojan through web pages, but auto-launch virus protection and a firewall (which you can get free from Microsoft if you have a legal XP operating system) stops most of them from getting into your system...if you don't disable them as I did a week ago Friday.
Well...here we are at the beginning of another summer vacation. Best wishes for the Memorial Day holiday and especially thanks and a toast to all our military service men and women who are serving or have served us in peacetime or in wars.