Spyware Infection.. FML!

My wife ran upstairs to see if some celebrity couple was still together or not, and then called down to me when “something weird happened to the computer”. I come up, and she’s got one of those fake error messages saying some virus was detected or something. A quick CTRL-ALT-DEL to kill the Internet Explorer session, and I thought she’d be good to go.

But no, I immediately noticed a new icon on her desktop.. And then these crazy error messages started popping up from the taskbar. They looked pretty realistic, but the error messages themselves were ridiculous. “Your hard drive is missing. Please fix your hard drive” Stuff like that.

I had to deal with idiots who mucked their computers up with spyware in a past job, so I’m all too familiar with how to fix things.. But this had to be one of the more persistant spyware I’ve seen. I figure up my secret weapon, it finds 11 infections, and we go to work on it. A few of them couldn’t be contained until the system was rebooted (since they were still running), so a quick reboot should have done the trick.

Nope. Instead, I get the fatal BSOD (blue screen of death). FML. I spent the next 45 minutes trying to get back into the system, but it was royally fucked. If I had to guess, I’d say that it replaced some system files, and when my software removed it, it took out the OS.

So I grabbed my trusty Windows XP disk, and started doing a Repair. (I’ve done TONS of Windows XP support in my life, but I’ve never actually done a Repair before. Usually it’s just easier to wipe everything out and reinstall a new image. But that’s in corporate America, where everyone’s files are stored on a network, and reimaging a drive can have you back up and running in under 30 minutes.)

Anyway, the repair did work, but it took over 45 minutes to do it. And when the system came back up, there were still quite a few problems. (Her computer was running XP SP3 with IE8, and my recovery disk was for XP SP2 w/ IE6) Still, it got me back in so I could backup her e-mail, music, and other important files. I did a few updates to get the system stable, and 2 hours later I went to bed.

This morning, she complains that things are still acting funny, and asked me to look at it. At this point, I was annoyed. These low-life scumbags had already cost me 3 hours of my time, and things still weren’t 100%. I had a Dell server that I was no longer using, with a faster processor and 4x the memory of her old PC. I reformatted the drive, reinstalled XP, moved over all of her files, and made sure everything worked as it should.

The new computer has an extra HD in there, and I’m going to setup a nightly backup or something to protect her files. RAID seems like overkill for her, as she doesn’t have too much stuff to begin with. Guess I should look for some software to automate it.

Total time spent – Almost 6 hours. Around $500 in billable hours!

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