When the Computer Virus is Winning…

I’ve had a pretty frustrating time recently fighting a computer virus. Not, thank goodness, on my work computer. On my husband’s computer.

We’re pretty sure this was a real nasty! Hard to tell because not a single scanner of any sort that we tried could find so much as a trace of it. We used programs such as Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware, SuperAntiSpyware, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast and more, uninstalling programs as needed to let other ones work, and not a single one found a trace of the problem. They all reported us clean, as did every online scanner I tried.

That’s hugely frustrating when you know for a fact there’s some sort of malware on there. The redirect on Google searches alone was a dead giveaway, and the sudden failure of the sound card driver turned out to be a potential symptom of some types of rootkits.

What to Do When Nothing Works

I debated trying ComboFix. That one is considered a bit risky, as it can do other things to your system if you get it wrong.

But the decision came down to wanting to be 100% certain that the damn virus was gone. With every other scanner coming up negative, I decided that I’d rather be certain.

So I reformatted his hard drive and reinstalled XP. Bye bye virus!

Good thing we have a backup of his stuff on my external hard drive, one that hasn’t been updated in months, but that’s a good thing when you’re talking mystery virus that you aren’t sure when it got on board. Good odds the backup is clean, and the data loss is minimal.

Finding the drivers for a computer the age of my husband’s computer… miserable, just miserable! I had to take my best guess for the ethernet card driver. Got it right so far as I can tell, though. There are a number of websites out there that can help you find drivers, although the best source is often the manufacturer of your computer. Safest, too.

Even before installing most drivers must come installing a good antivirus and antispyware. I put on Microsoft Security Essentials because it’s free and is supposed to be good. I know it didn’t find the virus when it was already on the computer, but neither did any other program, so there wasn’t much to do about that.

What to Do After Reinstalling the Operating System Due to a Virus

There’s a lot to be done after the operating system is back up. Lots of programs to reinstall. Data to put back on the computer.

But all that is much less important than a step I had my husband take, and took myself just because it’s a good thing to do once in a while.

Change passwords. And user IDs on important things like bank accounts where permitted.

The trouble is quite simply that there’s no knowing how much data was taken. It might have been a lot. It might have not been any. Without so much as a name for what he had, we just don’t know.

Thank goodness the accounts all look fine so far.

Changing your passwords and making them challenging is a good idea anyhow. I explained to my husband what is considered to be a more secure password these days, which he wasn’t aware of. His original choices weren’t dreadful, but not especially strong either. They should be better now.

I did the same on many of my accounts too. So many of the passwords I have are the same as they were years ago. It was time for a change. And now they’re much stronger.

Most systems now will let you use not only alphanumeric characters, but certain special characters as well. The greater the range you use and the longer the character string, the stronger your password is. That doesn’t mean it can’t be beaten by brute force, but it means that someone else’s password will be easier to crack.

We’re still feeling a bit paranoid about whether or not any information was stolen. It’s hard to not worry when there’s a reasonable chance of it. But at least now we’re aware of it and have taken steps to take care of the situation.

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