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by Phil Ball

I was opening my morning emails and following some links onto the Internet. All pretty ordinary and safe. Suddenly, a popup came onscreen warning me that I had numerous infections on my computer.

I was immediately suspicious since the message was not from my antivirus program but the title bar listed something called System Tools. My concerns increased when it offered to fix things with a download. This was an obvious hoax except that I had a new image on my Desktop and things weren’t working right. It had hijacked my antivirus and I could no longer get it to run a scan. I gave myself a little pep talk, reminding myself to stay calm. My firewall was asking permission for a program to reach the internet. Since none of my regular programs would need permission, I realized that this was the culprit.

I wrote down the very weird name which ended with .exe and then asked Windows to search for it but it came up with nothing. Then the program rebooted the computer and it asked me if I wanted to start up normally or in Safe Mode. I chose Safe Mode in hopes that it would allow me to find the culprit. It found it and I deleted it. Then I physically disconnected from the Internet and uninstalled my messed up antivirus. After rebooting, I reinstalled it from Downloads, re-connected to the internet, updated my antivirus and everything was okay again.

Best advice? Stay calm.

Published: Courier 4/3/11 - Page 5C