NYT Corrupted PC’s find new home in the dumpster

Corrupted PC’s find a home in the dumpster from the New York Times, (registration required…etc. etc.)

You know it is bad when people have some much trouble with spam, pop-ups and slow performance from “mal-ware” that they just throw out the PC and buy a new one. I spent eight hours last week trying to get a pop-up program off a client’s machine. In the process I probably deleted another 100 bad cookies, spyware entries and general gunk. I made sure that Windows XP was updated to the latest security and service pack 2. I charged them for three hours…about the cost if I had completely reformatted the disk and reinstalled all of their programs.

On a recent Sunday morning when Lew Tucker’s Dell desktop computer was overrun by spyware and adware – stealth software that delivers intrusive advertising messages and even gathers data from the user’s machine – he did not simply get rid of the offending programs. He threw out the whole computer.

Mr. Tucker, an Internet industry executive who holds a Ph.D. in computer science, decided that rather than take the time to remove the offending software, he would spend $400 on a new machine.

He is not alone in his surrender in the face of growing legions of digital pests, not only adware and spyware but computer viruses and other Internet-borne infections as well. Many PC owners are simply replacing embattled machines rather than fixing them.

There are several key issues to bear in mind:

  • Prevention is always better than cure. When using Windows, make sure it is up to date. Use the XP firewall. Keep the anti-virus program updated. Use a spam catcher program. My current favorite is Microsoft Anti-Spyware.
  • When using OutLook and OutLook Express, turn off the preview window. If you don’t turn this off, any time you click on a message in the message list the message automatically opens. If it is an HTML formatted messsage (like a web page with nice fonts, colors, and pictures…) it could contain a spyware program. If you don’t know who sent the message, or you know it is a “joke”, eMail letter, or other kind of junk mail, delete the message without opening.
  • Be very careful when surfing in Internet Explorer. Some popular sites try to install adware, and popups. Fortunately the later versions of IE will suppress pop-ups.

Once an infection takes place, the first place I always look is on the Symantec security site. Symantec (and the other security vendors) offer a number of free downloadable programs to get rid of specific problems.

In my recent case, the problem was a program, Aurora, that insinuated itself into Windows, that would run on startup. This program would launch another program that would then start popping up web windows. It proved amazing difficult to kill, but there were discussions about it that I found through a Google search. The best was at good old BroadbandReports.

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