Malicious Thoughts About the Spyware Ills of My Pc

By: Jess Ong

Introduction

Who would think I was capable of such revengeful thoughts about the parties responsible for inflicting my poor computer with spyware? Well, after the trauma of having gone through such an experience for the first time, I was sorely tempted by the occult section of curses and witchcraft at my local bookstore. Growl!

Basically, I am a normal person using a home computer to perform simple normal tasks such as word processing, writing emails, internet banking, and surfing the Internet for useful information. Ok, I also have a weakness for looking for bargains on good old eBay (sheepish grin) and Paypal is quite a handy option for easy purchasing.

Problem:

Great dismay and panic hit when my pc started popping up strange windows or messages. With my limited IT knowledge, I ran a Norton virus scan which obviously revealed a number of problems. But the Symantec removal tool did not remove the spyware and I could not even log onto a couple of password protected sites. My beloved pc was infected with some malware or adware or trojan, among which, I believe was WinFixer and a Trojan Vundo. I did not know how to get rid of Vundo or how to remove WinFixer. (Or perhaps they were the one and same thing?). But at that point, I did not know any better, so began the laborious task of searching for information on how to get rid of the spyware.

Research:

From my search, I found out that the Trojan Vundo is a trojan horse that causes popups advertising rogue antispyware programs. For example, the program called Sysprotect is advertised in many of the popup windows as seen from the screenshot below. Vundo infects a computer by creating a DLL file in the Windows system directory and writes registry entries causing Windows to inject the file into winlogon.exe.

WinFixer, on the other hand, has siblings as it is identical to WinAntiVirus and ErrorSafe. And these programs all claim to repair problems within your computer system. By installing the program on your computer, you will likely end up receiving false information about your computer. Naturally, this will confuse you into believing your PC is infected with viruses, spyware and/or other forms of malware.

The popups and forced downloads apparently mirror "marketing" strategies of many spyware programs. And at times, infected computers will reduce in their level of speed and performance. Well, this all explained what was probably happening to my pc, and I knew I had to figure out how to get rid of WinFixer and Vundo before they drove me mad.

Research and solution:

In my initial panic, I reacted by downloading some recommended antispyware programs, namely CounterSpy by Sunbelt Software, XoftSpy by ParetoLogic and Spy Sweeper by Webroot Software Inc. I came to my senses by the third program and stopped myself from paying for another popular program, Spyware Doctor. But hey, all these programs did receive pretty good reviews from the experts at PCWorld, PCMag, CNet, Tucows and AdwareReport. So at the time, I did not feel that I had gone too much overboard ;)

Now, there are many sites listing all sorts of free and paid antispyware programs with a variety of reviews and user opinions on how to remove WinFixer and how to get rid of Vundo. Many of the commercial antispyware program homepages also list very detailed features of their products plus the latest research findings about current spyware threats. Have a look at this webpage that lists some of these reliable programs. www.consumerstyle.com/antispyware

Anyway, an opinion and recommendation I had read when researching for the reliable antispyware programs made heaps sense in that software you pay for is more likely to offer benefits over freeware, i.e., better support, more frequent updates and better pro-active protection measures. One just has to be careful when selecting the programs. According to the comments in the forums and review articles I read, many recommend using at least two programs to be able to catch the latest spyware that either program might miss (that was when I stopped myself from my downloading frenzy). I have learnt much more about my pc now and wish to share and perhaps amuse you my muddled but finally effective measures to cleaning up my pc and removing the spyware.

My actions:

My initial Norton antivirus scan found but was not able to delete Vundo, even after rebooting. The Symantec removal tool did not help at all. I had disconnected from the Internet, disabled system restore, and ran the removal tool, regularly and in safe mode. After numerous startups, varying with safe mode, and disabling antivirus, I even tried to figure out how to remove Vundo manually without messing with the registry, etc. Please note that some people had success with the Symantec removal tools, and some others, like me, did not. Apart from the Trojan Vundo, I was getting quite frustrated at not being able to remove WinFixer for the many windows continually popping up started to slow my computer down, and even freeze it at times.

So I first tried Xoftspy, which was the fastest when scanning my computer. I was pleased to have fewer pop ups, was able to remove WinFixer, and ended with a much faster internet connection.

Then with my next program, Spy Sweeper, I ran it twice and then did a full system scan. Lo and behold, Vundo was gone, no more popups and adware annoyances. I guess this might not work for everyone but it is worth a shot to download Spy Sweeper.

Being still paranoid about the health of my pc, I finally ran the the free two-week trial version of CounterSpy, for extra assurance. Now I was quite impressed as it also included a scheduler, secure file shredder, and a history cleaner that made it simple to set up weekly scans. And there are frequent definition file updates for CounterSpy's publisher. The company seems to run a well-staffed spyware research department. After a scan, CounterSpy can delete, quarantine, or remove spyware. I was advised not to install Microsoft AntiSpyware alongside older versions of CounterSpy (version 1.5 and below). And it is recommended to get CounterSpy to check for online updates of definitions and program files manually.

Conclusion:

To sum it all, XoftSpy was able to delete WinFixer as the program was able to uninstall WinFixer within fifteen minutes requiring a couple of restarts. As for Spy Sweeper, it managed to remove Vundo with ease. And I have no doubt that CounterSpy has done a great job of keeping my pc free of spyware. I cannot say that I have taken the best approach to solving my problems, but my pc is now running faster than ever and I have been free of WinFixer and Vundo ever since. I just have to remember to be more careful and scan my pc regularly.

One thing is for sure, there are many reliable and popular antispyware programs out there, and many helpful forum chat folk who can lend a hand with plenty of technical advice. You just have to sort out what advice and which steps to take by increasing your own awareness and understanding of your pc and the nasty world of spyware lurking around these days.

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