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Updated 1-stop answers: Spyware, Secret Installs, Virus and related

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by SamBuca, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. SamBuca


    Aug 9, 2002
    Carlisle, PA

    The previous 1-stop thread is so outdated that you can actually damage your system by using it...and a lot of the programs/advice given is no longer relevant.

    I do this for a living...I sit in my 2 bedroom apartment and make websites, program, and spend the majority of my day fixing virused/cracked/spyware-ridden systems (call me for help in the central PA area ;)). This isn't my opinion or some nonsense I'm regurgitating from reading online....this is what actually works in the real world time and time again.

    Please do not have to be a computer genius to fix and/or protect your system. These easy instructions will provide you with a few key programs to handle things---not 10 different programs that are confusing and use terminology you've never heard of.

    Whether you're infected or not, it's a good idea to start at the beginning and work your way down. As we approach the bottom, things will get more complex and will change your may stop at the designated places if you're not comfortable with "going all the way."


    Spyware and Adware are defined as "...products [that] perform many different functions, including the delivery of unrequested advertising (pop-up ads in particular), harvesting private information, re-routing page requests to illegally claim commercial site referral fees, and installing stealth phone dialers," and "...any software application in which advertisements are displayed while the program is running," respectively.


    • Popup advertisements that appear when you're not browsing the web
    • Search bars that appear in Internet Explorer (IE)
    • The default page in IE changes without your knowledge
    • Slow system performance
    • Browser crashes
    • Worst case scenario: total browser failure and inability to access websites at all


    Microsoft released a new anti-spyware product called MS Anti-Spyware (they bought out another company's product and made improvements). It's currently in beta, but is stable enough for use from the general public. Lab tests as well as my own tests "in the field" show an amazing result compared to other products like Ad-Aware, Spybot, or even a commercial product like Pest Patrol. The product detects programs the others miss, offers a nice interface, system restore capability, real-time agent for detecting stuff as it happens, and auto-updating.

    This program is FREE for valid copies of Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows 2003 Server. If you don't currently have at least Windows 2000, you should consider upgrading as support for previous operating systems is being phased out.



    The install is very straightforward and asks easy questions. You can say "yes" to pretty much everything--however I do not say yes to being part of the SpyNet Community. Not interested. All in all, it's important to say yes to the following:

    • Real-time agent
    • Auto updates


    After your intial scan, make sure you click "create restore point" on the bottom right...this is to be sure you don't damage your system and can undo everything.

    A browser hijack window may may reset your browser's settings to the default by clicking the blue arrows.

    The program will automatically scan your system every night at 2:00am and leave you with a status window in the morning. You can change the time by clicking on "manage schedule." It was HIGHLY recommended you leave this feature turned on in conjunction with the real-time agent.

    A word on cookies...

    "Cookies" have become a buzzword and their function blown completely out of proportion. Anti-spyware companies inflate the "cookie problem" to the point of idiocy in order to promote their product (it may detect 3 spyware programs...but it can say it detects a TOTAL of 800 items when counting cookies it finds from advertisers). A cookie is defined as "...a packet of information sent by a server to a World Wide Web browser and then sent back by the browser each time it accesses that server."

    Yes, advertisers track usage across multiple sites by using cookies. So does every other real-world business. Do you complain to your credit card company about privacy when it takes the buying habits of your card number to its promotions/marketing department in order to figure out where you're eating so it knows whose flyer to put in your bill? What about the "bonus card" craze at the food stores tracking your food habits? What about the 460 terabytes of data (read: 471,040 gigabytes...what do you have, an 80 gig in your PC?) Wal-Mart collects on its shoppers?

    You're safe. Don't worry about the's all a bunch of nonsense to take advantage of the ignorance of the public.


    A virus is defined as "...a self-replicating program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents." In more recent times, viruses are becoming rare...what we're actually seeing are worms, which are "self-contained and [do] not need to be part of another program to propagate itself. They are often designed to exploit the file transmission capabilities found on many computers." In other words, the things you get via email and such.


    • Unusual network, drive or CPU activity (not to be mistaken for adware/spyware activity mentioned above)
    • Frequent system crashes (different from 3rd party program crashes like IE or other software you install)
    • Unexpected shutdowns
    • Loss of network connectivity due to your internet provider cutting you off
    • Slow system performance


    This is where it gets tricky...there are several well-known and good anti-virus vendors.

    • McAfee (HIGHLY recommended - get Online VirusScan v9.0)
    • Norton Security (difficult to configure properly, consumes too many system resources, annoying updates)
    • Trend Micro (one of the little guys)

    It's NOT recommended that you use one of the free virus programs.


    Since each product differs so greatly, follow the manufacturer's installation procedure...just be sure to ENABLE AUTOMATIC UPDATES and ENABLE A NIGHTLY SCAN.

    Windows Updates

    It is absolutely essential that you make sure you're up-to-date and enable automatic updates.

    Go to Windows Update (it may ask to install some stuff...that's ok) and click "Scan for updates."

    If you have Windows XP, you should install Service Pack 2 immediately and then re-run Windows Update.

    After your first boot in service pack 2 the following will be presented to you:

    • Turn on the firewall
    • Turn on automatic updates

    At this point, you may stop. You've cleaned and disinfected your system as well as taken precautions against future infection.

    Browser Replacement

    Yes, it's annoying when some computer saavy person says "you should run this other program because it's better." Most of the time they neglect to take your novice skill into effect. However, one replacement browser in particular has grown to the point where it's easy enough to use that ANYONE can use it...and it's fairly simple to get going. We call it...Mozilla Firefox.


    Simply run the install program...upon running it for the first time, you can import all of your IE favorites, history, cookies, etc, then you can set it as your default browser. If you're missing a plugin, an easy interface will pop up letting you install it.

    It's understandable if you don't want to switch from your beloved IE...but Firefox is written by people who actually care about your computer's well being. It will completely uninstall as if it was never there. Doesn't hurt to try it. Give tabbed browsing a try.

    Email Replacement

    A lot of people use Outlook for email...and with Outlook comes exploits. The majority of people get viruses and worms through email. From the same people who brought you Firefox also comes a program called Thunderbird. It operates almost identical to Outlook...except for the exploits.


    Upon running it for the first time, you can import your email messages and contacts from Outlook. There's even a calendar program that operates like the one in Outlook.

    There are a few more tricks, but they're very nerdy...I'll edit this post to add them a little later on. Just got a call to fix a PC ;)
  2. Zoolander

    Zoolander Castrated

    Nov 8, 2004
    Great effort! Thanks.

    I have the SP2 disk in my hand but I'm reluctant to load it on my puter. I heard some people whine that it messed up some of their other programs and such.

  3. 4sarge

    4sarge Millennium Member

    Thanks SamBuca, I loaded the MS program last evening after reading your post and it successfully removed spy-ware that Ad Aware and Spy-Bot (my favorites)couldn't rid me of. I hope MS continues this program as a freebie or at least incorporates this in an OS.
  4. MB-G26

    MB-G26 Bk2MiscResource Lifetime Member

    Oct 9, 2001
    Missing Sharon
    If you feel like being a little more specific I'd be happy to make changes via editing when time permits.
    Er... personally, I would not be comfortable using any MS product that's still in beta. Even with final releases, when it comes to MS, I let the rest of the world beta test whatever it is for a while - and then keep any eye out for posted results on a variety of sites. Much better, for us anyway, than finding out the hard way about conflicts and problems.
    Actually, I don't have to complain because I have always been since the inception of any of my accounts, and continue to be, in full "opt out" status at my request. I must be in the generic insert category, because I see the same inserts in my bills in the bills of friends who have cards from the same companies or lenders.
    I have not provided personal information when obtaining those cards, which I would prefer to do with out but truly need the cost savings result (unfortunately, seems they just hike up the other prices to compensate for the "sales"). I have also contacted the individual offices of the stores that issue them - to have all database info removed and to insist that I am completely "opted out" of their data collection (on the assumption they they pair up personal info vis-a-vis traceable payment methods, with purchase info).
    Probably not a lot I can do to control the Wal-Mart Corporation, but I have done everything knowingly within my control to opt-out of all data collection and marketing by/from whatever source.

    I would certainly agree that keeping up-to-date with applicable updates and patches is a good computing policy. I do not, however, allow auto updates of the OS, for example, until the rest of the world has done the real-time beta testing. I have yet to be advised by anyone in the security end of things that this is a bad practice. I'd cite as examples the incidents where MS itself has provided infected patches, as well as patches that have wreaked havoc on system with certain configurations, hardware, and/or other sw products.

    I think SP2 was a good example of how an upgrade, patch set, etc., is not necessarily a blindly good thing for all systems; at least, not unless the user knows in advance of the problems that will likely be caused on their invidual system and configuration.

    Some upgrades include automatic overwrites of other programs, like the MS browser version for example. Upgrading and patching for security purposes is certainly good, but I think it is not always a good idea to simply blindly accept whatever is being sent down the pike to one's machine. There is also the matter of new EULAs to consider, and not just for MS products. I have on occassion chosen NOT to upgrade from one version of sw to the next specifically because of changes to or new provisions in a certain EULA.

    It's my understanding that XP's "firewall" is not a true sw firewall for the reason that it does nothing to stop OUTgoing connections which are undesired. Also, it's my understanding that it is NOT advised to run XP's "firewall" at the same time as a sw firewall product because, basically, 'the two will fight'. Personally, I prefer to use a reliable sw firewall that handles traffic from both directions, not just 'incoming'.

    In any event, I'd be happy to bring the existing stickie current as soon as time permits, and certainly remove information that is actually damaging advice - but you'll have to be a little more specific as to those sections you object to :)
  5. 4sarge

    4sarge Millennium Member

    Well, I actually should have thanked both article authors to be PC ;) I have used computer techniques and suggestions successfully from both posts. I do not necessarily think that MS is always the evil empire that some do, I have not downloaded the complete SP2 fixes (pick & choose) and I also do not like sharing my personal data with ?

    Thanks to everyone who contributes
  6. Microsoft recommends installing XP SP2 in safe mode.Clean up and defrag first.
  7. g29andy

    g29andy CLM

    Jan 28, 2001
    Just curious,why do you recommend not using free antivirus programs, I'm specifically thinking of AVG? I recently dropped Norton(resource hog), and switched to AVG.
  8. The free antivirus programs don't always stay as up to date as the big ones.Being up to date is important.
  9. Just exactly is a resource hog?PC's are so much than last year .They are so fast these days there should be resources to spare.Safe internet requires some of your resources,it's just one the prices you pay to protect your data.
  10. g29andy

    g29andy CLM

    Jan 28, 2001
    Your point is taken, but in addition to my new desktop, I also run a 4 year old P3 laptop maxed out at 512 mb RAM. Wish I could justify upgrading all my PC's.

    I run Adaware, spybot, ZoneAlarm (free, free, and free)
    I run Firefox and Thunderbird (free, free)
    Also OpenOffice (free again)

    Although they have their critics, these programs are not too shabby.
  11. Year I run a 4 year old Pent III's plenty fast for the internet.I have Norton on it.I have only 256mb of ram.
  12. David_G17

    David_G17 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

    Oct 7, 2002
    i disagree. the best free antivirus programs:
  13. MB-G26

    MB-G26 Bk2MiscResource Lifetime Member

    Oct 9, 2001
    Missing Sharon
    Re Windows XP and installation of Service Pack 2, and Windows Update

    Note that XP SP2 is about 80MB in the "mini version", the full distro is around 250MB, a difficult option for dial-up users. Some users have eventually received theirs on CD from MS by ordering same. See
    (" may have to loosen your security settings to use this site. You may need to allow Active Scripting if you have it disabled. Don't forget to put things back the way you had them once you are finished before you leave the site and go someplace else."); see also
    Re XP SP2 problems, related posts, related resolutions

    See also:
    regarding problems, and this:
    end part 1
  14. MB-G26

    MB-G26 Bk2MiscResource Lifetime Member

    Oct 9, 2001
    Missing Sharon
    Re: SP2 Resources
    These resources are listed on the MVP website and are the initial resources for
    people interested in SP2.

    IT Pro:

    PSS SP2 Support Center:
    In addition:
  15. mzenzer

    mzenzer Argus-eyed

    Feb 14, 2002

    First, MS bought their Anti-spyware software from a company called Giant. The software was already well established and in final release. MS made minor changes and released it in "beta", however I would hardly consider it a true first release. I have installed it already on a couple dozen computers, and it FINALLY removed some from PCs that had lingering spyware which Spybot, Ad-Aware, Spysweeper, Pest Patrol, and Hijack This failed to rid. I have yet to notice any bugs or compatibility issues.

    If anything, install it, remove the spyware, then uninstall it until a final release comes out.

    Second, I personally feel that keeping the systems up to date and secure far outweigh the remote possiblity that a patch could harm the system. All of my client sites run SUS (Software Update Services), which allows us to centrally control updates via Group Policy, and we approve patches on a weekly basis, at minimum. I think that keeping your systems protected from things like RPC viruses is much more important then worrying about a possible "bad" patch.

    In my 10+ years in the IT field, I've only downloaded one bad patch. It was on an NT 4.0 server and the update replaced my dual processor kernel with a single processor kernel and I got the pretty little blue screen on next reboot. Other then that I've never had a problem.

    Mind you, this advice might not be as important to the average home user, but in the business world security is numero uno, above all else. Keep your systems patched to the very latest.
  16. SamBuca


    Aug 9, 2002
    Carlisle, PA
    MS also just released a new malware program which searches for some specific programs and can remove them.

    If you haven't run it yet, even if your system appears fine, go do it.
  17. Cinic

    Cinic Spongy Member

    Nov 17, 2001
    Tempe, AZ
    Ok, so I download and installed the updates from MS yesterday. Where in the world do you find the malware program on your system in order to run it?