Monday, February 11, 2013

Personal PSA - Computer Crisis

So, yesterday was a bit of a technological doozy to say the least, and I thought I'd use my experience to send out a little public service announcement. My computer apparently contracted a nasty virus at some point. I don't know if it was something that was picked up Saturday unknowingly or prior to that and the virus lay dormant for a time. There was an issue Saturday night with internet explorer freezing up briefly, but things like that happen from time to time even when a virus of some sort is not involved, so I can't say that's when the infection happened. All I know is that when I booted up my computer yesterday a "program" popped up at start up called "Disk Antivirus Protection" and automatically ran a scan showing all sorts of horrible trojans, malware and other nastiness. I was immediately alarmed and tried to exit the program because I knew it was nothing I opted to install. The only way to exit the program is to give your credit card number to "purchase" the program and have the files "removed". (I'm using quotations for all these terms because I seriously doubt it would have remedied the problem.

I'm not aware of the name of the virus, but it appears to be fairly new and is some form of ransomware, which means that it hijacks your system and won't allow you to do anything until you provide your credit card number and "install" the program. I reached for my Kindle Fire and did a google search of "Disk Antivirus Protection" and found a good many articles and message board postings within the last month. Not being a computer expert I was a little cautious of trying to follow the instructions I found online to remove the virus myself so I called the tech department of a big box electronics store and was told there was no option for me to remove something like this myself and it would be $200+ and I would be without my computer for two or more days. Now, I don't know about y'all, but this girl loves her computer and is on a budget so two days without and $200+ would have had to be a last resort. Of course, why did I expect them to tell me I could fix the problem myself, silly me! Luckily I have a wonderful and computer savvy younger cousin who was more than willing to help me out.

I called up T for a little advice and although he wasn't familiar with the virus, nor did he know how to fix it he offered to help immediately. So, I hoped in the car and hauled my distressed behind over to my personal tech support. Based his research this virus can delete and/or replace registry keys so that you may think you have removed the virus completely, but unless you know for sure which registry keys are missing you won't have fixed the problem completely. (And, forgive me if you're knowledgeable about this stuff and some of what I'm saying makes no sense. I don't totally understand everything about this issue.) Eventually, we decided the safest thing would be to do a system restore. Thankfully I was able to save my photos, music and other documents to a flash drive and they don't appear to be corrupted, so I didn't actually lose anything. And, my adorable little tech wizard claimed the experience was fun.

My point and PSA to all this is, be careful, make sure your antivirus is up to date, install atleast one additional program to check for malware/spyware and run scans regularly. I can't tell you how or when my poor computer contracted this virus. We don't visit questionable website, atleast I didn't think so. And, I'm the only one that downloads anything, and I never download anything that seems suspicious. I haven't tried it yet, but have heard numerous good things about the antivirus program Avast. It's free and supposed to be an excellent program, I plan to give it a try. For malware/spyware programs Malwarebytes Anti-malware is supposed to be very good, and T recommended Spybot to me, which I have used some years ago and also recommend. Yesterday's experience was not one I wish to repeat, but I know it could have been much worse. I could have had no help with the issue and been forced to pay a good chunk of money to fix the problem and I could have lost all my photos and documents. Thus, I just want to give everyone a heads up and a few recommendations so that y'all can protect yourselves from having the same experience, or worse. Good luck y'all!

I have to give a HUGE thank you to T, the best boy I know. You're growing up so fast, and I love you to pieces. Such a smart and wonderful kid. I tell ya, that boy is going to be some kind of computer genius when he grows up. He'll be the next Steve Jobs or somebody equally awesome. I just hope he remembers me when he's rich and famous for developing some awesome video game or computer system. I'll be telling y'all, "Hey, I know him!"

I have no affiliation with any of the above mentioned programs, they simply recommendations based on word of mouth or my personal experience. I do not guarantee them, nor am I being compensated for the mention of them."


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