advice on cleaning infected computer

Discussion in 'other security issues & news' started by nan5040, Sep 9, 2006.

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  1. nan5040

    nan5040 Registered Member

    Sep 9, 2006
    To begin with, I am a total novice when it comes to PC's. I have owned only Macs since I started using computers (in the mid 80's) and am relatively knowledgable about them (but no expert). However, I now have a PC problem. I bought my daughter a PC laptop when she started college. At that time she had no internet service; soon thereafter she got a dialup service. About a year ago, she decided to get high speed internet, and of course then is when the problems started. (Let me also say that she is a complete airhead when it comes to computers and worrying about viruses, etc.)

    To come immediately to the problem, I now have her computer (I gave her an old Mac to use for the internet, which is much less apt to get infected.) Once before, I wiped her hard drive clean and reinstalled Windows XP home, gave it back to her to use for word processing only. However, there was something wrong with the wireless switch, so it was online all the time anyway; consequently it is now again a mess. I took it in to Best Buy to have the wireless switch fixed (under warranty), and they now tell me that it has a trojan and 8 adware programs on it. They also want $300 to disinfect it and to install an adware and an antivirus program.

    I asked why I couldn't just wipe the hard drive clean, and reinstall windows again to clean it up (and update it myself). They said that the trojan could have infected the motherboard of the computer, and therefore wiping the harddrive and reinstalling wouldn't get rid of it. Is this trueo_O??

    They also said that free malware and antivirus programs weren't as good as the ones that they would sell me (but I don't remember which ones they would install - I think maybe SpySweeper and Norton.) They said that getting rid of it was something that I probably couldn't do myself, and that their expert programs were the only way. I can't imagine this to be true, but as I am not familiar with PC's, I thought I would ask some experts (or at least some knowledgable people) before shelling out $300.

    If it's something that I can do myself, after reinstalling the system software and updating it, and getting some anti-malware programs (any suggestions on which ones to get?), is there any other advice that anyone can offer me. I don't intend on using the laptop a whole lot, only perhaps as a backup when my husband is online on our Mac, and perhaps while traveling, as navigation software for PC's is far superior to that available for Macs. There are also some astronomy programs not available to Macs that we'll use.

    Thank you very much for any advice that you might give.

  2. Eldar

    Eldar Registered Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    Vilvoorde (Belgium)
    Hi Nancy & welcome to Wilders, :)

    Before spending $300 for cleaning your computer, you could take a look
    at Stopping HijackThis Log Cleaning Services!.
    There you'll find links to forums where you could post your hijackthis log, so the expert can have a look at it and instruct you how to clean this computer for free, or you could donate something. :cool:

    Read the instructions on their site, prior to posting your log.
    Chose only one forum to post this log.

    Good luck with it. ;)
  3. WSFuser

    WSFuser Registered Member

    Oct 7, 2004
  4. nan5040

    nan5040 Registered Member

    Sep 9, 2006
    Thanks for the prompt advice.
  5. Devinco

    Devinco Registered Member

    Jul 2, 2004
    NO! This is not true. While it is true that there were in the past destructive viruses that would corrupt the computer's BIOS (Basic Input Output System), like the CIH virus, the goal of most all current malware is to turn your computer into a mindless zombie to do the will of the controlling hacker.
    Your computer can then be used for a variety of purposes including:
    sending spam out in your name
    spreading malware to other computers
    used as a robot to attack specific websites
    Serving ads to the user
    steal personal info for ID theft
    The fact that you have a trojan and 8 adware on your computer tells me that it is not an infection that is trying to destroy your computer. It is simply taking over control of your computer.
    There are various myths going around about malware being able to hide in the BIOS, video card RAM, or video card BIOS. But they are just myths. I have yet to see proof that this type of malware actually exists in the wild.
    If you take careful steps during the reinstall, like booting from the Windows XP install CD (instead of just reinstalling from within Windows), deleting the partitions, then formatting, then install, you will remove the infection. Make sure to go to Windows Update and get all the critical updates including SP2 (service pack 2).
    Expect that all hard drives and media (floppies, writable CDs) and the data within could be infected as well.
    You don't have to get rid of the data, just don't trust it or run/start/execute/open it until you can thoroughly scan it with anti-virus and all your anti-malware programs on a known clean updated computer.
    Treat the data as if it were a bio-hazard until you can prove it otherwise.

    You may not even have to reformat/reinstall.
    There are services online as Eldar mentioned that can help people clean their infected computers.
    If you have the time and patience, this may be a route also.

    I would reinstall in your case, but it is up to you. Make sure you have everything you need before you reinstall (CDs, hardware drivers, software serial numbers, passwords).

    If you don't have the time to clean it or reinstall, then a professional service may be the way to go. But definitely not at a shop that is trying to scare you with a lie.
    I would get your computer out of there.
    Make sure you ask to see the computer BEFORE you let them know you won't have it serviced there. And don't let it out of your site after you tell them you are taking it. This is so they don't do something malicious to it like put a screwdriver to the motherboard.
    You may have to pay a diagnosis fee for them looking at it (find out if there is one first), but it may be free.
    Make a fuss about it (ask to speak to the manager if they don't comply) and you will probably not have to pay the diagnosis fee if any.
    If they say it is true about the trojan infecting the motherboard, ask them to write down the exact name of the trojan that can infect the motherboard.
    Post the name of the trojan here and we will see just what a bunch of baloney it is.
    Do not leave the computer at the shop after you tell them you don't want it serviced.

    Shop around and see how much Norton and SpySweeper costs.
    Norton is very user friendly, but bloated and slow.
    Most people here favor NOD32 or KAV.
    Free Anti-Virus can do a good job. I prefer paid, but opinions vary. Spend a little time here, search for things, ask questions, and you will find what you want to know.
    Free Anti-Malware can do a good job too.
    SpySweeper is well regarded by some.
    Others like Ewido, SuperAntiSpyware, Spyware Terminator, Adaware, and Spybot Search & Destroy.

    Yes it is something you can do yourself.
    If you are willing to learn how to drive a PC safely, you can prevent it from being infected in the future.
    It is different from a Mac because of the sheer volume of malware on the PC.
    But security skills (safe behaviors) that you learn on the PC can be applied on the Mac as well.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2006
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