Hating Viruses, Spyware and Stupid People

A few days ago a computer showed up in the front hall. Firefly had brought it home from her brothers ex (who lives in her parents basement… long story), who had begged her to bring it to me to clean off a virus.

I of course, let it sit there. Last night I decided I may as well at least take a look. I am a geek and therefor drawn inextricably to problems, in this case, a broken computer. What I found on it, well, it scared and annoyed me.

One thing I’ve learned lately is that my time is worth something, and when working 8 hours a day at a day job, coming home to hack on contract work, and then mucking around with my own systems, I don’t have a lot of time in which I really want to do uninteresting or un-needed work for free. I especially don’t like it when someone who is not a friend or relation takes on the attitude of since I’m a ‘computer guy’, I must want to help them with their computer problem. I sympathize with doctors or shrinks when they go to parties here.

Anyway, I don’t work for free but I’m also a nice guy. Now FireflyBroEx (FBE) doesn’t have a lot of money I know, and even if there was no chance of me being paid, I figured sending the box home with a big fat invoice attached would send a message of “I don’t work for free” back loud and clear. Some could argue at this point that I didn’t have to do anything but could have simply sent the box back with a “no” or a “here’s my estimate” message. But then I looked at the box.

Where to start? I booted up and took a quick look through it. No antivirus software. No spyware software. No browser that doesn’t suck (and contribute to the aformentioned spyware problem). No alternative email client (and contribute to the aformentioned virus problem). Nothing obvious anyway, nothing that I was familiar with anyway. The Windows XP was up to date with critical updates though, which was a good thing, but other than that it was a stock windows box that someone had put directly on the internet. shudder

Oh, and it had kazaa installed. No kazaa lite in sight. What looked like a directory of viruses (file names like “acdsee crack.exe”, “photoshop 7.exe”, etc all 12k in size) already installed in a shared folder of some sort.

So my moral obligation of getting this horribly setup box off the internet overrode my business sense to not do it to make a point. I’ll still send an invoice though.

So I did the dance.

  • Download Firefox

    • Install flash
    • Install adblock
    • Install flash click to view

  • Download Thunderbird, set up on desktop, minimal configuration of junk filter, leave ready to be set up by FBE
  • Download and install Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-aware. Run both.
  • Download AVG. Run.
  • Download Norton Antivirus 2004. Run.

As expected, the box was full of stuff. Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D found something like 75 offending items, from running copies of gator to cookies to lord knows what else. AVG and Norton (both run for completeness) found something like 240+ items, I noticed at least 15 copies of the Bagel.J virus on the box (you know, the one that tells you you’ve been spamming, click on the encrypted zip file for more information). That enough was justification for me working on the system, cause that ones a big PITA for email admins.

So I’m waiting for the antivirus to proclaim this system free of nasties, then I’ll defrag, play with the XP firewall tool to see if it’ll do what’s needed, write out a nice professional letter explaining what I did, what software I installed, what software she should be using in the future (hint: not IE, OE, or kazaa), and to not fucking click on attachments or files you’re not sure of!

So I’m:

  • Pissed at the user for letting the system get this bad and no doubt contribute to the crap on the net.
  • Pissed at spyware and virus writers for producing crap software that wastes the time of myself and others like me.
  • Pissed at microsoft for producing a system so easily exploited by stupid users.
  • Pissed that there’s not a CD that does all that I did over a few hours the last two nights, automatically. Maybe that’s what the computers stores proclaiming “$25 to clean your computer of viruses and spyware” use?

Next time a computer appears in the front hall I’m just going to format it and upgrade my webserver. Wish I was kidding about that….

6 Comments on “Hating Viruses, Spyware and Stupid People”

  1. I have an acquintance that has a buggy, virus- and spyware-laden machine. Nat and I keepo telling her, “burn off your data and we will do a fresh install” because her machine is so crufted, virus-eaten, and just generally mucky.
    If I ever get my hands on it, I will do the above steps (as an addendum to the excellent list above):
    * Install Mozilla, set up moz mail for her so that it all integrates seemlessly. Not sure if moz mail has junk mail filtering though…
    * Spybot and ad-aware, of course
    * AVG, good.
    * OpenOffice!!!! Yes, that’s right, HOW many times has she gotten a macro virus? Besides, its free and upgrades are… well.. free.
    * Palm Desktop. She doesn’t have a palm, but Palm desktop does everything that Outlook does for a home user as far as scheduling, calendering, etc.(for enterprise users, various shared crap is useful….)

  2. has OpenOffice, Mozilla plus lots of other goodies. Also having it on a CD seems to give the software some added value to lots of less savy users.

  3. I know it’s tough to say no, but ya gotta learn. Plus ya gotta teach your friends, SO and others that you draw the line at them,…no one else
    Also, if this;
    the computers stores proclaiming $25 to clean your computer of viruses and spyware
    is actually true, that’s not much $$ at all.

  4. Arc: about moz mail: cool, cool, that only strengthens my resolve that for “the other person” mozilla mail is the way to go… nioce, integrated, etc.
    Foz: I burned the OpenCD to disk (after wrangling with fucking Roxio’s crap over the kernel) and I am impressed. Not as slick as a retail version of this stuff, but very nice. Other than AVG anti-virus, ad-aware/spybot, and the various proprietary players, this disk basically covers everything you need.
    The only two things that I think they should have added were a free CD/MP3 player since you can apparently RIP mp3s, and you can MIX MP3s, but you can’t listen to them with the music on the CD…. weird….
    Also, I didn’t see Gimp32 on there, despite (I thought) being advertised on the site. Weird. Is it maybe part of the OOo install?