Why a holiday is sometimes not a holiday.

I have a lot going on in the town of Ipswich. I have a full time job, a big lovely social circle, go to the gym a few times a week, and do a fair bit with my art, whether it be my photography, cartoons, or the odd bit of web design.

Every few months I get away to see my family up at Chesterfield, and to unwind a bit. It provides a chance to put my feet up and spend some time with my parents, which is nice and laid back.

That was, until they both got laptops. Now my trips seem to be taken up with being a computer technician, whether it be fixing various bugs, and doing general maintenance things.

This particular trip I learned about packet viruses (or ‘virii’), and that even the most careful web surfer can be the victim of vindictive coding. My Dad’s netbook somehow became infected with a virus that took me 10 hours to fix, and almost resulted in it being flung out the window. This is a potential pitfall of these little netbooks, the ultra portability can make them susceptible to being mistaken for frisbees.

I noticed something wasn’t right when Firefox wouldn’t launch, and Internet Explorer randomly came up with spammy websites when clicking on links from Google. Avast kept coming up with beastie warnings, and there was an odd application called XP Malware 2010 that reported even more bad things.

Windows Update didn’t work, and neither did Google Chrome. So, I ran several scans with Avast, and then a host of spyware apps such as SuperAntiSpyware, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, CCleaner, PC Tools Spyware Doctor (as part of Google Pack), and then AVG (after getting hacked off with Avast after it got in an endless loop trying to delete something prompting the same big warning sign that made me want to bash my head in with a spoon), I thought I had it sorted.

The fake malware app seemed to have gone, and Firefox loaded. But after a little bit of Googling, random sites started to pop up again. And then AVG brought up a few warnings. And then XP Malware 2010 popped up again. I hadn’t fixed anything at all. I likened it to having a plague of rats, with fleas, in your house, caked in dirt, pooing all over your fancy LED 87″ telly, but with the Kind and Queens of said plague hiding under the sideboard. After getting rid of all the dirty little bleeders, the King and Queen just release another league of hell, intent on befouling the tv with yet more fleas and excrement.

And then, after a reboot – a Blue Screen of Death. Even with Safe Mode. At this point I thought we might have to start wishing I knew where the receipt for the netbook was. The rats had got clever and had locked me out of the house..
Fortunately the option ‘Last Known Good Configuration’ seemed to work. I had found a key under the bins.

Thankfully I had my iPod touch to search for solutions (and DoodleJump to relieve tension). I found that some people had been installing HitMan Pro to sort out a Rootkit trojan virus called Alureon. So I booted it up, and sure enough, the atapi.sys file (a core Windows file) was infected. HitMan Pro soon sorted it out, and everything went back to normal. The rats were defeated, and the King and Queen had been executed, by means of decapitation, right in front of their royal subjects, who were on fire.

By this point it was 1 o’clock in the morning, and I had started seeing things, and I may have gone a bit peculiar.
Dad’s netbook was now full with many security programs, yet I was hesitant on celebrating. How did his computer get infected to start with? Unlike my netbook which gets a hammering with my social web life, my work, and hours watching talking cats, all my Dad uses his for is relatively light surfing, with eBay and ScrewFixDirect being his favourites.

Could it be that eBay has listings that contain malicious code? According to some of these people it does..
There could be another culprit though. I haven’t entertained the possibility of him looking at naughty sites, as that would seriously affect my mental health. I told him not to look at these sites, as it could lead to viruses. Much like this one.. Um..

So I ended the first day of my visit irritated and full of hate towards the virus makers, and rodents, and was as tired as after a day at work. Still, with a constant supply of tea and hearty food, it could be worse.

Next up: set up Mum’s new laptop. I’d better set some rat traps.

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