Taking a break from the blogging posts because I have something serious to bring up. It’s on the topic of computer maintenance. It’s on the topic of running your antivirus programs. And it’s on the topic of trying to be careful with updates.
by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr
Some weeks ago I updated my main computer with what was at the time the most recent Adobe Flash update. Immediately my computer freaked out, and it took me 2 hours to finally figure out how to get rid of it. Actually it should have come to me much sooner, but I was frustrated. What I did was run a system restore, and I went back 2 months prior just to make sure I was going to cover everything. I hadn’t loaded any other programs that I could think of so I wasn’t worried about losing anything.
I ended up having to run it twice. The first time it didn’t take. The second time it said it didn’t take, but when I booted the computer up it said it had restored itself to a previous time, and I’ve had no problems ever since.
So, when a week later the laptop started acting goofy, I said to myself “well, I guess that Adobe flash update is just going to mess with everything.” This time I went to system restore immediately, it said it worked, and I believed everything was fine.
Only everything wasn’t fine. The update was gone but the laptop wasn’t working. Actually it would work for about a minute, then I couldn’t type anything, couldn’t open most programs, and many windows I tried to look at disappeared as soon as I moved my mouse. What was troubling is that when I booted up in safe mode to look around I encountered the same issue; what the hey?
I knew this had nothing to do with Adobe. I knew this was either virus or malware related. But I tried to figure out how it got on my system. I have antivirus software, AVG, and a firewall. I figured I had pretty good protection; what was the deal?
I downloaded Stinger and ran it on the laptop, remembering to load it in that free minute I had. It ran and found nothing; that meant it wasn’t a virus, but malware. I went to look at my AVG program after another reboot. It said that my computer wasn’t fully protected, and to click some box to fix it. I clicked the box and it did its thing then said “fixed”.
I then looked at it and saw that it hadn’t run a scan of the laptop in 5 months; oy! I thought about that because my main computer runs a scan once a week, and I realized the problem is that I always have my main computer on but my laptop I might run an hour a day, if that.
Also, I tend to take more chances on the laptop than I do on my main computer, doing more surfing because my main computer is used for most of my writing and emailing. Bad idea, especially when I didn’t have all my protections on.
This time, I didn’t have to reboot to run the virus scan. I put it on the strongest setting, told it to scan the entire computer, and it did its thing. Turns out I had 78 pieces of malware and tracking cookies on the laptop; ouch! AVG cleaned them all out. Then, just to make sure it was all good, I went online and ran an online virus scan of the laptop, just to see if it found anything; all good.
The next night I ran Spybot, since I was up until 3:15 in the morning trying to fix the laptop (I spent 4 hours on it; ouch), and it found nothing new. That means AVG did its thing, and it taught me a very important lesson, one I knew already for my main computer but one I hadn’t thought about for the laptop. Make sure to scan your system at least once a week if you use your laptop or computer even once. It’s just a smart thing to do.
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