Slowed Down By a Virus, Things I Learned

What are you doing this weekend?   I’m reinstalling software on my computer after getting a pretty malicious virus.  Fun stuff.  

On Wednesday of this past week, I was just browsing design blogs on my computer when everything just closed and then disappeared and within 2 minutes nothing was on my desktop or in my start menu.  All I had was alert windows popping up saying how my hard drive had severe issues.  I had a virus.  (First time ever.)  Of course, I was freaked out!   

To make a long story short, within an hour, I was dropping my computer off with the Geek Squad at Best Buy.  They said I had a particularly malicious form of that virus.

After two days and a couple hundred dollars, they were able to remove the virus (yay!) and recover my personal files.  However, no actual programs were left on my computer, other than the operating system.  Just shells or icons.  Nothing would run because the .exe files had all been deleted.  So, I had to reinstall everything, back everything up and so on.    That takes days.  Ick.

What shocked us (and by “us,” I mean a moderately computer savvy me and my software architect husband)?    How I got the virus.  I mean, we are always so careful.  I don’t open attachments unless it’s something I’m expecting, I don’t click on links in emails, I don’t indulge pop-up windows, I use virus protection, and so on.    

So, it seems it’s possible to get a virus in ways other than the obvious ones and you aren’t necessarily totally safe even when you are ultra careful.  That is a myth.  Well, then what other myths are there?   (If you read nothing else, read myth #2.)

I picked the Best Buy Geek’s brain, and here is what I learned.  I want to keep you all safe, so I’m sharing!  And, well, sharing makes me feel like maybe something good could come of something really bad (for me).  It’s my little form of therapy.  The other form of therapy for me – getting educated so it hopefully never happens again!

Other Computer Virus Myths:
- Myth 1:  Firewalls Protect You Completely From Any Virus

It’s surprising how many people don’t realize this, but your firewall won’t protect you from a virus, trojan, or spyware necessarily – in fact, the only type of malware that you’ll definitely be helping prevent is a worm, because they travel over the network.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not recommending that you go and disable your firewall.  Do not, especially when away from your home using another wifi connection.

- Myth 2:  Only PC’s Get Viruses.  That’s Why I Have a Mac/ Apple Computer

Apple computers get viruses too.  Yep.  They are not immune as is the popular thought.  Until recently, Mac users simply represented such a small portion of the computer-using population, hackers just left them alone.  But, due to more and more people using Macs now, more and more hackers are targeting them.  So, Macs need virus protection, too.  Go here for more information on this topic.

- Myth 3:  You have to open an attachment or click an .exe (executable) file knowingly to get a virus.

Viruses can be gotten many ways such as through security holes in java, browsers, by them spoofing alert windows, by clicking on particular links on web pages, and some viruses are activated through email as soon as the infected e-mail message is opened in a preview mode, even without an attachment.  Spyware can be gotten just by viewing a webpage via ads.  Malware the same way through ads or scripts.

Here are things most people know when it comes to avoiding computer viruses.
- As always be careful of opening any email attachments that you aren’t aware that should be coming in, going to any links on an email that you aren’t familiar with or expecting. 
- Be careful about clicking on any pop up windows, even if they look legit and like they are from your computer.  Many viruses mimic windows that say you have hard drive issues, for example.

- Use virus protection software.  Norton or Kaspersky is recommended by Best Buy.  Be sure it’s always turned on.  Keep it up to date or it will not be able to detect the latest viruses.

- Go into tools and settings on IE, Chrome or whatever you use and make sure the security is turned up – not allowing scripts and such. 

- If you are downloading something, make sure it’s from a well-known site that you can trust and that your virus protection software is on and scanning it.

Here are things some people know when it comes to avoiding computer viruses.
- Beware of ads.  They can easily contain malware or spyware.  This is another way the Geeks think I could have gotten my virus.

- Don’t click on any links with an .exe at the end.  In fact, always look at the file extension before opening a link or file.  There are more than 40 file types, or extensions, that may contain or spread a virus; some of the most common today are .com, .cpl, .eml, .exe, .pif, .reg, .scr, .vbs, and .zip.

- Back up your files regularly. I recommend once a week at midnight. It can be automated.  Use something like Carbonite (online) or an external hard drive. We use both now. That way, it’s easy to recover your computer if anything happens.

However, the result of a virus infection can be far more extensive than deleted or corrupted files on your hard drive.  Confidential or sensitive files may have been compromised, with no obvious symptoms on the infected computer.  Keep this in mind.

Here are things that even my software architect husband did not know fully.
- Don’t use Internet Explorer as your browser to go on the internet. We left it on the computer, but only open it when there is no other choice. Instead, use Chrome or Firefox. To get them, just to online to their website and download. Right now, IE has too many security holes. Hackers can get in through them.

- Be sure to update java, IE, virus protection and so on the minute it needs it. Many times these updates are fixing security holes that were found. I waited a few weeks to do a java update and that could have left a security hole and in turn, a virus in.  They said that maybe the virus exploited a security hole in java so it was able to download and execute a file.

We are taking all these precautions, most of which we’ve always done, but a few things new like using Chrome now instead of IE.  I tried Firefox and I personally didn’t like it because it froze up on me a lot…  but that is another browser you could try using.

Hope that helps some!   Just want to keep everyone safe.  And well, I needed some therapy.

Tell me your horror stories!  Make me feel better!

And for all of you computer geniuses out there, feel free to correct any wrong information or add to it.  I’m no expert.  And, even though my husband works in the industry, he is not a repair specialist.

Still working on getting my computer back up to par,

10 Comments :

  1. Thanks for all the great info! Hopefully I never need to use it! Sorry you were infected, who knew that one day we would worry about our computers getting viruses? Have a great weekend!

  2. Hey, I appreciate this little lesson. I will check out Chrome. I have it on my computer but never use it. Am I going to go into overdrive trying to figure it out? I’ve never used anything but IE!

    • Actually, I found it super easy! I went over their really basic tutorial and in about 10 minutes (max) I was good to go. It’s pretty intuitive and easy to use.

  3. I always feel bad when I hear someone had to spend hundreds for a virus removal. I am not trying to promote through your comments but my sister used to be on the Greek squad. She then went on to be a network admin and a CIO at different companies. She is starting a business called the computer gurl. Because girls can fix things and because you shouldn’t have to pay so much for virus removal. I could so tell you stories but basically I am glad you got things fixed.

    • Yeah, I thought it was pricey, too. Of course, that covers all the computers in my home for tech service for a year and virus protection software. But, I also wondered if I could do it myself. Normally I would have, but this one seemed pretty malicious and complicated. I should email you for your sister’s info, though!

  4. Oh bummer :( Thanks for all the tips though. I can’t stand dealing with computer problems!!!

  5. oh yeah…I got a virus as well as my provider messing up at the same time. It took weeks to get everything straightened out and it’s stil not as it should be. And I agree about them charging way too much to get rid of a virus. I live too far from the city and have to use the only available help out here in the country and it’s expensive just for him to even look at the computer. I haven’t used IE in a couple of years and have the best virus protection and still got a virus. It just irks the heck out of me! Thanks so much for all that wonderful info.

  6. Kristy,
    I am so sorry this happened to you & boy I can so relate. My PC totally bit the dust last year due to a bad virus…I had a computer tech that would occasionally come to my house in Colorado & occasionally do a “log me in” to fix it. I’m all to familiar with what you went through. Well, this all happened during & between moves for us to Arizona. I have been limping along with a Mac laptop since then that’s a little old & not enough power for me. With all our moves I decided to wait to get the big girl Mac after I’m settled. The big major purchase of this will be very very soon. I’ve been rather handicapped without one since I do so much digital & graphic art with dual monitors as well as a traditional “wet paint” artist too. I hope this never ever happens to anyone ever again.
    Thank you for all your valuable information as always, Colleen

    • So nice to relate. But, so sorry that happened to you. I know how important power and speed can be for an artist! Hope you get it all worked out. Too bad new computers are so expensive or I’d just get a new one every so often. Of course, even then, you have to transfer all of your data and software.

  7. Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

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