September 10th, 2008

International Kittens of Mystery

The mother-in-law of all computer viruses

Just a quick note - before I rush off to finish slating our roof before the rains come tomorrow - to be wary about a particularly nasty computer virus. It's cost me a week, a couple of hard drive wipes, countless lost files and neither Bitdefender, Adaware or Spybot noticed a thing. Every time I ran them they said my computer was virus and trojan free.

It wasn't. The virus appears to be a variant of the Vundo virus in that it takes over your browser and directs you to certain sites while preventing you from accessing others. It starts off as an annoyance and ends up taking over your entire system.

At first all you notice is that some websites don't download correctly or not at all. The virus targets major sites like Amazon and Myspace - most sites download correctly. But when you try to Google...

You get hijacked. If you see come up in the bottom left hand corner of your screen then you've got it. It redirects you to shopping sites and prevents you from accessing any fora that discuss computer viruses. It also intercepts any attempts to download. So if you find a site where you can download a package to remove the bug, the bug either stops you or gives you one of its own files to download.

Any attempt to use the windows explorer search facility to find the bug causes your computer to reboot. You now start to panic. You run your virus software. It says your system's fine. You restore your system from last week and ... the bug returns. You try windows update and suddenly it's blocked. Gradually your system is taken away from you bit by bit. Things that worked yesterday don't today. Your virus software stops updating. The ability to restore your system goes away.

After three days of fighting I had to bite the bullet and wipe the hard drive. Something I didn't want to do as it meant regressing three years and hoping that all the software I'd loaded and updated over that time would reload and re-update.

Fat chance. I managed to bring Windows XP through the first series of updates but couldn't get service pack 2 to work. So another day, another disk wipe and back to service pack one. Eventually I bypassed the service pack 2 problems by manually downloading service pack 3 and installing that on top of the unstable service pack 2.

I still haven't got Word or most of my stuff back but at least I have a virus free system. And a roof to finish before the inundation...

PS - I also now have Apple Safari - it's the one browser that the google-analitic virus didn't target.