Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spectacular Computer Crash: Walgreens Photo Center

Pawned by Trojans

Howdy folks!
Iamge Credit: Hysterical Bertha
I've been on this "Watch out for the Chinese, Russians, and Cyber-Criminals!" thing for some time now. I've been cautious while I use Al Gore's Internet, always staying away from suspicious sites, and never downloading anything I wasn't specificly looking for.

Imagine my surprise when I started getting flashing colors whenever I tried to post comments, or clicked on just about any button.

WTF I wondered...

I have Spyblocker Search and Destroy running in the background... or do I. When I clicked on it to do a forced run, it didn't. Somehow it had been disabled. I deleted it, and reinstalled it, but it still wouldn't come on.

Image Credit: Pink Sherbert
OK plan #2. I have IsoBits Complete Care on tap. I was able to run that and found a couple of trojans/worms imbedded somewhere in the depths of my computer's synapses. Unfortunately, that didn't resolve all the problems, and as I continued to work, it seemed like I was fighting a slow cascading effect. The system became more and more unstable, not unlike me as my frustration was quickly reaching its zenith.

My computer is used primarily by me for a limited number of purposes. In other words I do a half-dozen things on it and rarely stray from those activities. So the question before me was," Where the Hell did this all come from?"

I remembered coming home Wednesday and finding the flashing colors. I asked myself what did I do before that? We added Skype to the system so we could see and talk to the Bear. I downloaded dozens of pictures from the hard drive to a thumbdrive that I received from Brownells. That's the only things I have done that were out of the ordinary. The Mrs took the thumb drive to Walgreens, plugged it into their machine and downloaded the pictures for printing.

I've used the Brownell's thumbdrives before without any problems, so I am fairly confident that they are not the source of the problem. So that leaves only Skype and Walgreens. I doubt Skype had anything top do with it. I have yet to go up there and have a chat with Walgreens. I'm still trying to get things back in order.

I have an older computer that I inherited from one of the neighborhood kids. Its a 2.7 Gz machine with a 40 GB drive in it. It has a 256 MB stick in it and a CD read/writer. The kids got rid of it because they couldn't clean up the harddrive.

I ran AVG off of a disc and at least got it cleaned up enough to be functional. Then it was Linux Ubuntu time! I slapped that disc in the drive and let it rip! After a couple of hours it was done reformatting the whole drive and setting itself up. Bubby and I fooled around with it for a little while and truth be told it was as easy as Windows. Everything is pretty much the same, and the included programs are fully functional. Yes, the GUI (Graphic User Interphase, the little buttons you push) is a little different, and some of the stuff like the Photoshop and Publisher copies are going to require a little reading and playing with, but overall, the experience is actually better than Windows!

Now I have to go back to the original system and try to get it functional. The CD/DVD unit won't read off of a disc, so I am having trouble getting AVG loaded up. It is difficult to go online and get it, these Cyberpunks are very clever and have created any number of dummy sites that look and feel like legitimate sites. You so much as open their window and it downloads malicious code! And it seems to me they have inserted code in their worms, trojans, etc, that prevent defensive software from loading up.

So the long and the short is that I only have access to my company laptop and the Linux machine. I find it very hard to do any work on the laptop, and I have become accustomed to dual screens and full sized keyboards. The Linux box just went online last night at 01:30 and I had to get up this morning at 04:30 for work so I didn't have time to connect it to the Internet.

It will probably take me a couple of days to get things back up to speed, in the meantime I have a couple of posts that have been ready and I will try to keep the schedule up!

Best to All!
Albert A Rasch


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Come over to the Mac side

David said...

Dude, save time, pain and suffering and get a Mac. ;-)

gray.sanborn said...

Comp. Sci. major reporting in. I'd recommend booting to a Linux live disk/live USB and running an antivirus from there. I'm betting that you got the virus from the Brownell's thrumbdrive that got it from the Walgreens photo center (all it is is an XP box w/ a full-screen prgm running to do all the photo stuff). The virus you've got transfers through USB (check their USB for 'm.exe' and 'autorun.inf', if it's there, just delete them) and when you double-click the USB, it installs itself on your compy. You might also want to alert Walgreens that their Photo center is infected if you find this stuff.

Good luck!

P.S. - Oh, and I'd recommend Linux for your next OS, but if you go back to Windows, use Firefox as your browser and Avast! as your antivirus (both free and very good).

Dennis A Carroll said...

I had a few problems with my computer (as you may have read.).
I have a MAC and will always have a MAC. I think that the malware I received came in through the Windows XP that I was using on the MAC for digital map making. I've taken Windows off and everything is fine--for now.
I think MAC is the way to go, although I have never run Linux.
Have a great day. Aren't computers fun???

Albert A Rasch said...


I'm switching the big unit with the dual screens to Linux also. Gray that's a great idea which you would have thought I would have thought of too! Actually I'll dual boot it until I have everything backed up and squared away, and then I'll axe the Windows. I've only had my system compromised twice in 20 years so I figure I've done pretty good! But it only takes that one time for it to to really get under your skin!

Thanks guys!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ya know, I once installed Skype so I could talk to my friend in Afghanistan, and it did a huge number on my computer - Internet Explorer would just randomly crash. Randomly six times an hour. I uninstalled it and everything was better.

But yeah, Walgreens photo probably screwed you.

Try Costco photo - you upload to them, and they can mail it to you or you can pick up in store, if you're a member. They do very nice quality work, too, and FREAKIN' cheap.


NorCal Cazadora said...

P.S. I'm a Mac hater.

But question to all you Mac lovers: If I get a dual boot Mac and use the PC side all the time, will I still have the problems you associate with PCs?

Borepatch said...

Albert -

Welcome to the club. The two things I've found that hold people back are games (e.g. my kids) and iTunes (e.g. my wife). If you don't need these (e.g. me), then Ubuntu is pretty painless.

Let us know how things seem in a couple days, and in a couple weeks.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I'm betting on Walgreens. I think that is probably where you picked up whatever it is that caused all the problems.

Good luck getting everything cleaned up.

David said...

NorCal - Same problems? On the Windows side, yes. insecurities in Windows is the same regardless. The nice thing is that since I'm running Windows in a controlled virtual environment (ie. not dual boot, but VM) I can blow away a "dirty" infected version of windows and restore to a pristine copy on an as needed basis with no re-instal.

No need to "hate" Macs - its just a tool. Sometimes a Mac is the tool for the job, sometimes Windows, sometimes Linux.

I run an email security company and we do botnet tests several times a quarter and it usually takes 10-12 minutes for Windows machines to get infected on the net. (this is WITHOUT any outbound web surfing/email, etc.) Shut down all your machines and watch your router lights - notice that traffic - those are mostly probes from botnets looking for machines to infect. You don't need to surf or get email to be infected. Scary stuff.

NorCal Cazadora said...

David, I mostly hate Macs because I've always used PCs and it's irritating when I have to switch over to a Mac and nothing is where I'm used to finding it, even when I'm using software (e.g., Excel) that works on both.

For the longest time, I had a major reason to avoid Macs: I use Excel and Access a lot. But now that Mac has those too, I may change over on my next purchase. I just dread the re-learning process.

David said...

NorCal - if there's one silver lining in the whole issue, its this : The amount of "learning" for Mac use is tremendously less than learning the ways of Windows. And thats just from what friends of mine who are core Windows users have said when they got their first Mac.

tom said...

As for GIMP feeling different than photoshop, as a Long Time, as in over a decade Linux/UNIX user, I'm used to it as it is.

For new Linux converts, there's a modified GIMPshop that does a pretty good job of replicating the interface of Photoshop for GIMP users.

Not many are aware of this. Thought it might help you transition.


Albert A Rasch said...

thanks for the intell.

I didn't use it enough to get a feel for it, and the one button I needed I didn't find quickly!The resizing button is what I use to make banners and such fit properly.

But like everything else it is just a matter of getting familiar with it. I just really like the speed it works at!