I spent half of yesterday morning dealing with a malware infestation on my laptop, the mighty Hekate O’Dell. You may think this has nothing to do with living on Martha’s Vineyard, but Hekate and I live on Martha’s Vineyard and everything is related, right?
First the ordinarily staid Hekate went batshit. A convincing window opened on the screen. It was titled Win 7 Antispyware 2012, it claimed to be scanning my computer for viruses, and it listed seven uglies that it had already found. Down in the lower left corner it said: “Activate your copy right now and get full real-time protection with Win 7 Antispyware 2012!” Other pop-up windows warned me that my security had been compromised, my identity was at risk, and my computer was the victim of a “stealth intrusion.” While my right brain was freaking out because something seemed to be devouring the innards of my computer, my left brain was going, “Nah, wait a sec here. Legit programs don’t show up uninvited, and besides it’s not 2012 yet.”
The editorial mind then noticed the top line of the window: Win 7 Antispyware 2012 – Unregistred Version. “Unregistred”? This had to be bogus.
No computer problem exists that someone hasn’t solved already, so I tried to go online to discover what this was about. Firefox wasn’t loading right, and IExplorer claimed to be blocking access to Google for my own protection. Right. This rogue looks out for #1, and its #1 is not me. Like the legendary HAL 9000, the rogue is intensely self-protective and fiendishly clever at making sure that you cannot get rid of it.
I, however, am more clever than this rogue. I posted an e-mail query to Copyediting-L. CE-L is for people in the word trades, most people in the word trades use computers, and the result is that CE-L has been my major source of computer info and do-it-yourself tech support for about 14 years now. Almost immediately I received a link to the relevant page at Bleepingcomputer.com and reassurance that yes indeed, I could get rid of the nasty.
The nasty, I learned, doesn’t want you to download anything that might kill it, but lucky for me, I’ve been a two-computer household since Hekate joined Morgana V, my old desktop, a year ago. I read the instructions very carefully, printed them out, and downloaded and saved to CD a file that would fix Hekate’s registry and enable me to get on with ridding Hekate of the infestation which (like a flock of geese on a sandbar) leaves a lot of unwanted crap behind. Once loaded into Hekate’s CD drive, it did exactly that. I followed the rest of the instructions. Outta here, rogue. Drop dead, have a miserable life, don’t come back.
OK, here comes the preachy part of the parable. (Didn’t realize it was a parable, did you? Me either.) Note that in the saga just told, no money changed hands. My editor colleague relayed the Bleepingcomputer.com link in less time than it would have taken me to get through to a computer tech by phone or e-mail. Bleepingcomputer’s instructions were detailed, easy to follow, well illustrated, and accurate. (I’m an editor, people: I know that a lot of time goes into producing instructions that good.) The programs I needed to clean up the mess, FixNCR.reg and RKill, were both free for the downloading. So was Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, which I had on Morgana V and should have had on Hekate. Malwarebytes comes in both freeware and “pro” (paid) versions. The pro version is not expensive, and I plan to spring for it out of gratitude.
Last week I almost throttled a woman who was insisting that “You get what you pay for.” Yesterday I didn’t pay anything and now my computer works. Maybe there’s more to it than that.