When just one Anti Virus Program is Not Enough: Saving my Computer from Malware!
Wednesday was supposed to be a day off of the computer.
My shoulders and neck were suffering from lots of typing over the past week and my wife suggested I take a day off to do non-computer activities. I agreed.
But fate had other plans for me.
I woke up around 7 a.m. and was merely going to check emails and then spend the rest of the day doing anything other than being on the laptop. But when I went to open the computer, the desktop looked like Swiss cheese! Every other icon was missing, and all of the corresponding programs were gone. Microsoft Office, gone. Adobe Photoshop, gone. PDF converter, gone. And so many others. To make matters worse, my default browser, Google Chrome wouldn't even open.
My trusty virus and spyware programs, Webroot (which I just bought a new license for) had clearly let me down.
My biggest concern? All the writing and editing of my latest book had not been backed up in awhile. So, the first thing I did was open up and plug in the 1 Tera byte external hard drive I had purchased a few months ago and backed up everything on the laptop. Yes, I will have to remove any malware that may be in those files, but at least I have all the documents and PDFs saved. Years of research and turning my workshops into text and editing and updating are not something you want to lose.
After about 45 minutes of saving 250 gigs of data onto the external hard drive, I set out to figure how to clean up the laptop of evil malware, viruses and apparently a rootkit that was keeping both Internet Explorer AND Google Chrome from loading. Fortunately, I also have Firefox installed as well, and that was working.
First, I did a system restore. That took awhile, but at least I got all of my missing programs back!
Second, I ran a complete scan using the Webroot software. That found and let me remove a Trojan program and the usual gang of cookies. Still, I could not get Chrome to run.
I removed Flash Player, Internet Explorer and Chrome completely. I read on various online forums that the three programs don't always get along well, and may cause conflicts. Unfortunately, that also means I lost my bookmarks (although I may be able to restore them from the files on the external hard drive after I clean those files up considerably).
I still could not get Chrome or Explorer to load. Webroot has a horrible website and ended up being a waste of time! So I kept searching for answers on forums. After a few hours of researching, downloading and finger-crossing, I discovered that it would take several solutions to get rid of all the nasty computer demons lurking in my hard drive.
Here's what finally worked:
1. I started by downloading a free version of a program called Hitman Pro35. This excellent program found dozen of additional malware, suspect executable files and even more cookies that Webroot had failed to find and remove. Although Hitman did tell me that it detected a rootkit in the Windows directory, it was unable to remove it.
2. I then downloaded a program called Malwarebyte's Anti Malware. I ran this one twice, first doing an express scan which found and removed stuff that neither of the first two had found. After closing the computer and restarting, I ran this again, doing a full search which took two hours. It found one additional threat and removed it.
I was getting closer, as the computer was loading faster and not trying to redirect me. But, Chrome was still not working!!! Fortunately, I am a patient guy, and was drinking lots of coffee throughout the day to keep me going.
3. I knew at this point that something was causing the port configurations to get stir crazy, and that I had to keep looking. The 3rd tool, the one that finally did the trick and gave me back my Google Chome (and Internet Explorer) was a free download called Kapersky TDSkiller.exe.
I was imagining an army of heavily armed operatives going into the hideout of some notorious thug and taking him out! I was delighted to my computer back. It is good to know that it is (at the moment) clean of viruses, malware and infected executables.
My advice to you...
1) Always be careful of which sites you go to, which emails you open, what links (even if from friends) you click on. Some of the infected files had been on our laptop for 2 years. Some resided in a bogus media player and some in a bogus free game my wife downloaded.
2) Don't get too comfortable or too trusting of just ONE form of online protection. I mistakenly thought Webroot had me covered and was catching all of the intruders. As hackers and malicious code writers get more brazen and more advanced, you need an army of programs to protect your computer. Run those protectors (and update them) regularly. And don't be lazy (like I was) in backing up your files. An external hard drive is relatively cheap these days. Or, you can upload your files to "the cloud" if you aren't subject to internet disruptions.
It took almost a whole day of trying to save my files and my computer to remind of these important lessons.
I hope this is helpful for you and saves you some valuable time!