One of the things that most people know about me is that I really like computers.
It all started in 1980 when I got my first computer, a Commodore Vic 20. That was eventually relplaced by the Commodore 64 when I got one in 1983, and even used it up until my first year at Villanova in 1990. Eventually I moved on to IBM clone PCs, and in more recent years I would buy custom designed gaming rigs by Alienware or Dell XPS. For the better part of 28 years from 1980-2008, I have always had a computer in my house.
Of course, in today's day and age, a computer is even more important. It's a connection to the outside world, a gaming center, media hub and business device. Without my computer, i'm not even sure what I would do with my free time. It's simply that central to everything in my life.
What that being said, I got home from the gym, after work, and connected up my iTouch to my PC while I took a shower. After getting out of the shower, I checked my computer and it was alerting me that I had spyware/malware on my PC. But, being Windows, it detected it, and told me that I should connect to a Windows website to download the spyware remover, which was called XP Protector, for only $49.99.
It directed me to a website, which had reviews, testimonials and a snazzy looking design. For a brief moment, I thought I would download it, but then stopped when my "spidey senses" started to kick in.
Why was this website's URL not Microsoft?
Why is my PC bugging me to keep buying it? A taskbar balloon would pop up, i'd close it, and it would pop up again...badgering me to buy the software. Microsoft is annoying, but even this was odd for them.
Why when I tried to go to other websites, to read up on XP Protector, would my Windows Internet Explorer get redirected to a warning saying something about not going to other websites? If this was a Microsoft tool, it wouldn't force me to type in URL's manually.
Something just wasn't...right. I smelled a rat.
Luckily, I have another PC in my closet, which I haven't used for about a year, but it was in basic working order. I popped it in, loaded it up, updated a few things (like I downloaded all ths security patches from Microsoft before I did any surfing), and did some looking around.
Apparently, this "XP Protector" is a very, very well designed Malware (Malware is the latest term for viruses that get installed on your PC by infected programs or websites).
At first, I figured I would try to defeat this myself. I downloaded a few security programs (Spy Hunter3, Ad Aware, Malwarebytes), and started to try and root it out. Spy Hunter 3, did detect it, and tried to remove it, but each time I would reboot, it was back! Malwarebytes was similar, and AdAware was hopeless in finding anything about it.
The software was extremely well designed. It had TWO processes running. If you killed one of the processes, the other one would just start it up. If you killed both, then another file called "av.dat" would just reboot your pc, it would reload everything and you had to start over.
Thursday night I spent 4 hours trying to fix it. Friday was another 4 hours. I was at my wit's end. I work on network stuff for a living, and my computer knowledge is good, but i'm not a wizard to fixing PCs, at all. I was about to go to a local computer store in Hoboken called Flash Tech when my buddy Chris told me about support.com. For $129.99 they will fix your computer or your money back.
Ok, fair enough. I figured it was better than lugging my computer to Flash Tech, waiting 24 hours and having some dude poke around on my PC while I wasn't there.
Support.com got on the phone and after a few quick bits of information, and registering on their website, they basically were able to remotely connect into my PC (you have to allow this by registering on the website), much like I have seen people do this at work with "PC Anywhere". Even I have used remote PC software to get into a remote computer and fix it. So this was nothing new to me.
The guy was good. Really good. We talked as he fixed my PC, downloading various anti-malware software, and he pointed out what was wrong, and even ran into a few of the problems I was having, also, but was able to get around them by deleting some registry entries (this is very dangerous stuff if you don't know what you are doing). After about an hour and a half, and being very thorough, the virus was gone. He did a clean clean up of my PC, getting rid of some things that may slow it down, and I was back on track again. I have a five day "guarantee" that if anything goes wrong, I can call back and they will continue to diagnose and fix my problem.
Suffice to say, if you ever run into any kind of trouble with your PC - i'd call these guys. Sure, it isn't cheap, but for about $129.99 it would have basically cost me the same to take it to Flash Tech anyhow and it was repaired much faster.