Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Did I ever mention that malware sucks?

This is old news, but I'm not sure if I shared it. About a month back, in the midst of a very busy time at work, I tried to use my statistics program at home to work on a paper or two. The program got all buggy and told me, wrongly, that the license had expired. I got all stupid and ornery and decided to try to download a hack to let me ignore the license requirement. This was stupid in so many ways. First, because I didn't need it - my license had NOT expired and I knew it, I was just pissed off that the damn software was screwing with me and so rather than go to work and get them to update the license info, I decided to try to hack it. Second, because hacking it is technically illegal (even if you do have a valid license). And finally, as I've told many people many times, if you go to a website that is specifically distributing illegal software you can't be surprised if you download some illegal software. In the form of malware. Which, as it turns out, I did.

Now I DID scan the program, with two different scanners (damn you Norton), and both said it was fine. Then I ran it. Immediately my email program started to try to send gazillions of spam emails. Norton DID detect that, and gave me all kinds of warnings. So I unplugged the network cable. Heh. Cant' send spam if there's no internet connection. Take that, malware! But then I had to go through the laborious process of running MANY scan and removal runs with MANY malware removal tools (Malware Bytes, Norton, and a few I can't remember). After no kidding a few days I did manage to get rid of almost all of it EXCEPT for this incredibly annoying thing that kept playing adds on my speakers every few minutes. I kept at it, determined to rid my machine of this bug, until I realized that I had already spent 3x longer messing with this than I would have spent wiping my drive and re-installing the OS.

So that's what I did. Reinstalling Windows XP is really not all that hard. Backing everything up is a pain, especially when you have to be careful not to move any infected files over. But the reinstall itself was relatively painless. Putting all the other software on is more of a pain - all the drivers, the office software, the FRIGGING stats programs, and so forth. Altogether I'd say this crap ate up, no kidding, ate least 12 hours of my life. Which is not a lot until you realize that I've only GOT about 12 hours of free time in a week, so that sucked.

Are there any lessons to be learned here? Well, one is "Don't be an idiot." It is QUITE annoying that the whole thing is my fault. The second is this: Norton sucks. I have now battled several types of malware (twice on my wife's machine, once on mine) with Norton finding nary a one. I've had to download a whole boatload of other programs to take care of it. Now I know Norton is AntiVirus, and malware is not always a virus, but for what Norton costs, in money AND system resources, it should be able to do just a little bit more. So Norton was not reinstalled when I redid the whole OS. Instead I'm running AVG, which is 1) free, 2) faster, and 3) can hardly be less effective. I've heard good things about it and so far, so good.

So I am now a repentant Shifter, who has now legally made the stats program realize my license never expired, and who will never ever ever visit another warez site as long as I type.

1 comment:

roborob said...

on a related note, and probably a more compelling lesson than avoiding warez sites, is this:

The people writing the majority of malware out there are doing so for financial gain. Their ability to get their bullshit ads out is the primary motivator - as such, it behooves them to make sure that their program's will not be stopped by antivirus. Specifically, they can buy all the same antivirus programs that we can, and they can test all of their badness against the detection algorithms of the antivirus until they get something that will not show up as being bad. Frequent updates of antivirus signatures aren't going to help here either, as the bad guys also get the updates, and can change their code accordingly. So what's a computer user to do? basically you look for programs that will warn you of other behavior - like opening tons of sockets to send out spam, for example.

Anyway - this is just what i thought when i was reading your post. :o)