Monday, October 2, 2017

Delousing the Computer

Or, Explaining How I Was Recently An Idiot

So, I'm going along, minding my own online business, when I get a pop-up saying that Firefox urgently needs to update. Sure, whatever. I hate updating -- too often, something I like breaks, or crap I hate appears, or occasionally they'll reset everything to default which means I have to waste however much time trying to remember which options and customizations and whatever-the-bleep-else I need to go digging into to get things back the way I like them. So I blew it off.

It appeared again a while later, though. I wasn't as busy and figured they'd keep bugging me (as they always do) so I figured, bleep it, and let it update.

Except this "update" opened a DOS window and code started scrolling up.

I've never seen a Firefox update that looked like that. Not being completely stupid (although clearly I'm at least a little stupid, since I let this happen) I CTRL-ALT-DELed it's ass and stopped the process. Enough had installed, though, that I started to get the occasional credit card commercial playing on my computer. Audio only. There was no credit card commercial running in any of my browser windows, so clearly I'd let something nasty onto my computer. [sigh]

I Googled the "urgent Firefox update" thing, and saw that something had infected my computer earlier to make that appear. Which is weird. This is a new laptop, I haven't loaded much stuff onto it, or done much random browsing -- mostly I go to the same batch of websites on a regular basis. But I caught a bug somewhere.

Okay, so a web site that talked about the Firefox update malware gave instructions on how to deal with it. Go here, look there, search for these files or anything else that looks squirrely and delete them. Except there wasn't anything at all on my computer that looked weird. Like I said, not much there at all at this point. I sorted the file list by install date, and nothing -- everything looked legit.

Next advice was to install something called Malwarebytes. I Googled Malwarebytes just in case, and it had good comments and reviews on various industry sites, so okay, I grabbed the free copy, downloaded, installed... except it didn't seem to be completely there. :/ The web site giving instructions said it'd do this, do that, download, open up and ask you to do X and confirm Y and then it'd ask if you wanted it to do a scan and you should say yes... but it didn't do any of that. It seemed to download and install okay, but it never opened. Doubleclicking on it didn't open it. There was a Malwarebytes icon in my systray, and doubleclicking on that didn't open it either.

I finally figured out I could have it do a scan by right-clicking on the desktop icon. Nothing seemed to happen, but a few minutes later, a box popped up to say everything was fine.


From that point on, Malwarebytes would periodically open a window (sometimes two or three or six in a row) to tell me that it'd blocked my OS from sending data to a website.

So much for Nothing Bad On Your System. :P

At this point, I got my husband, a retired IT pro, involved. He confirmed that Malwarebytes is well known and highly regarded. Okay, good. He/we worked on my laptop for the rest of the day, but he couldn't find anything either. He said the next step was doing a complete reset -- basically reformatting the hard drive, reinstalling software and starting over.


I really hate doing that. I just got this damn machine set up the way I want it, figuring out which options and customizations and whatever-the-bleep-else I need to go digging into, in every freaking program I use, plus the OS, to get things back the way I like them. Sorry, I griped about that before. :( But you know? So I let it go for the rest of the evening, just closing the Malwarebytes notification windows whenever they popped up.

Until, late last night, I got a message saying that Malwarebytes couldn't run anymore, and Windows would let me know when that changed, closing now bye.


Ever since I installed Malwarebytes and couldn't get it to open, I'd been wondering whether the virus was defending itself. I had that happen before, when the laptop I was using some years back caught a bug after I spent a couple of hours on the free wifi at B&N. That particular bug wouldn't let us go to the Microsoft web site where my husband wanted to download a patch or whatever to solve the problem; no matter what browser he tried -- and I have three of them on each computer -- it just would not let him go to My Googling had shown me that this Urgent Firefox Update thing has been around for about a year and a half, so I was wondering whether the version I got was designed to block Malwarebytes. And maybe they'd been battling all evening :P and the virus had finally won?

Whatever was going on, my only shield was gone. I did a quick backup of my Firefox bookmarks, and my writing folder -- everything else was still as it was on the backup I'd made when I moved to this laptop less than a month ago.

My husband spent the rest of the night reformatting my hard drive and reinstalling the OS and basic programs. I've spent several hours up to basically now re-customizing and -optioning everything [mutter] and getting backups replaced, hanging curtains and making sure the furniture is where I want it and all the books and files on on shelves and in cabinets. I'm sure I'll be stomping spiders and discovering missing nicknacks for weeks or months, but for right now I'm basically moved back in.

Major suck. On the one hand, having to do the re-install, re-customize, re-copy thing twice in less than a month is seriously aggravating. On the other hand, it would've been worse if it'd happened a year from now, after I had a bunch more stuff downloaded and installed and messed with to be replaced.

Be careful out there! :P



Suzan Harden said...

Well, that sucks! Sorry you had problems, but you had someone you can depend on to resolve the problem, and your new computer isn't a brick. That's a good thing.

Angie said...

Suzan -- yes, Computer Not Bricked is always a (relatively) good thing, [wry smile] And having Jim around is awesome for these kinds of situations. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

So irritating. I haven't had to reformat yet but I've had plenty of issues with shit getting through my defenses. I use Malwarebytes quite a lot

Angie said...

Charles -- my sympathies. :/ I wish there were a way to just flush this crap off the internet and be done with it.