Friendly Neighborhood Malware

| November 28, 2009 at 5:58 pm
Friendly Neighborhood Malware

I got to remove malware from my friend’s computer recently. It was one of those evil infections that pretends to be an official anti-virus program notification. Yuck.

He didn’t even know how he got it at first. Turned out, a website he visits daily got hacked. He didn’t download anything, didn’t approve anything, it just silently installed itself.

This is just a friendly reminder to be careful on the internet (like you really need to hear that, right?). But it’s not like it was a few years ago, when you had to actually download or install something. Now, there’s so much that happens behind-the-scenes that infections have all kinds of holes they can slip through.

WARNING: Don’t alter anything on your computer unless you know what you’re doing. Take precautions to secure any sensitive information and keep current backups of all important files.

I do not endorse any programs mentioned in this article, nor do I make any guarantees that the programs will perform as expected. Download and install any programs at your own risk. Always scan all downloaded files for viruses.

Precautions: Wash Hands to Avoid Infection

This is why I use Firefox with NoScript and RequestPolicy. It can be a bit of a pain, having to approve new sites and stuff, but it’s so much more secure.

What else do I use to keep my laptop running smoothly (as smoothly as Vista can run, anyway)? First off, all the programs I use are free.

For my main anti-virus, I used to use AVG Free (and my friend, with Windows XP, still does). I switched to avast! hoping that my laptop would run faster. I’m not sure if it runs faster, but AVG was still getting pretty bloated.

For spyware and malware, I use SpywareBlaster and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. Windows Defender is automatically installed on my machine, and I let it do its thing.

I also use ThreatFire. It runs constantly and provides behavior-based threat protection, so if a brand new baddie pops up that anti-virus programs aren’t yet updated to detect, ThreatFire will hopefully catch it.

Backups: For When Things Go Wrong, Anyway

I used to leave Windows System Restore on, but it took up 30 GB of hard drive space with its restore points, and when I tried to use it (after disabling and even uninstalling my anti-virus programs) all I got were errors. So, I disabled it, got my hard drive space back, and now I use ERUNT. I just have to remember to run it regularly.

Should I disable Windows XP’s System Restore function when using ERUNT?

Yes! Though System Restore backs up more than just the registry, the registry is essentially all you need to revert your system to a previous state. Advantages of ERUNT over System Restore are that each restore folder is standalone and independent of the others, minimizing the risk of restore failures, and that a restore can easily be done from outside Windows. Also, ERUNT backups usually take up less hard drive space than System Restore’s restore points and may be individually deleted at any time.

ERUNT Frequently Asked Questions

An instructor once told me that if a file doesn’t exist on at least three different storage devices, at least two of which are in different physical locations, then it doesn’t exist. For example, if you have a file on your computer that’s backed up on a CD-ROM and a flash drive, but the computer, CD, and flash drive are all in your house, then you risk losing those files if anything should happen to your house.

That’s just something to keep in mind. No one likes spending the money or taking the time to back up data, but at some point something bad will happen and those backups will be all that stand between you and Cerberus.

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