Friday, May 6, 2011

Lessons from getting hit by a computer virus

For the 10th time, I got hit by a computer virus. This time, though, it was a nasty hit. I was happily surfing the Internet last weekend when my antivirus software started detecting it. I am not yet sure if it is a Trojan (a malicious program that leaves a backdoor open in your system for hackers to take control), or a computer worm (self-replicating malware). But it was clear. It was annoying and it took control of my laptop. As one saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. The most effective and y et desperate way to get rid of a computer virus is to format the computer. Wipe the hard drive clean, and start afresh. But that would mean losing all your important files, data, and programs -- not to mention wasted man hours in reinsta lling the operating system, drivers, etc. So that wasn't an option. I had to fi nd a way to take out the computer virus with surgical precision. A friend who is computer virus expert told me that getting rid of a computer virus is like peeling an onion. No, it does not make you cry. You have to pass th rough several layers to get to the juicy part.

It took me to kill da bastard . We ran full scans, using both my existing antivirus software and an online free service from Trend Micro. The software was able to detect it. It was called CRYP_NSANTI. It was a Trojan. But when we chec ked for a solution, there was none at this time. I Googled it and found that ot hers have recently been hit, and were asking how to get rid of it. He used a free trial antivirus software version from Avira and launched a Filipino-made solution called Noob Killer, which fixed Windows registries in my system. You c an Google both and find a way to download the software. Noob is apparently a solution developed by Pinoy techies. The free antivirus detected 30 more infected files.

They were all quarantined. The Noob Killer was then launched, correcting registries affected by th e computer virus. I asked what Noob Killer did to the nasty computer malware, a nd our in-house techie said that it "patched" the damaged "autorun" configurati on of my system, and sought other computer viruses/worms that are spreading through removable medias. Lessons: if you're patient enough, there are free and effective fixes online. But you have to have an expert with you when using such software. Also, numerous free trial versions of antivirus software are on the Internet. You can download them and use them to scan and quarantine computer viruses. Finally, it is bes t to update your antivirus software.

If it's a corporate account, then ask your network administrator if it comes with the latest fixes. More lessons: be careful in deleting files during computer virus scans. It is b est to quarantine them first. Also always make sure that you scan removable med ia you plug in to your computer. That means USB thumb drives, external hard dis k drives, and other media. Computer worms are now spreading through removable media, and it can be a nasty problem. Finally, I learned that today's computer viruses will not necessarily render your system useless. But when not dealt with quickly, it would. In past discussions with computer virus experts, computer malwares are increasingly being launch ed to steal passwords, usernames, and other personal information on an infected system. So when you're infected, it is best to seek the help of an expert. You would never know that they are just sitting in a little corner in your office.