I have just leveled up in computer knowledge.
Drawbacks include the fact that I wasted most of my night doing this, that the knowledge gained was largely unnecessary, and that my writing session may or may not be shot as a result.
But hey, knowledge.
It all started when I wanted to know the voting breakdowns of the AL Manager of the Year. In the old days, media outlets would provide the full voting summary of any given award in the same article where the award is announced. You know, with the number of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes and then the complete vote total at the end. But for some reason, at least in the last year or so, a lot of outlets stopped doing this. Especially Yahoo!, which for whatever reason (fantasy sports tradition, I guess) has become my personal favored provider of sports news.
So I went looking for the AL Manager of the Year voting. You see, I happen to think that Mike Scioscia was a pretty bad pick and I wanted to see who agreed with me. Not that Don Wakamatsu, rookie Mariner skipper, was a shoo-in or anything, but I actually think Ron Gardenhire deserved the award, with maybe Ron Washington and Wak duking it out for second. Since I agreed heartily with the AL Cy Young (even though my boy Felix Hernandez didn’t get the award) and NL Manager of the Year, I figured the voting on AL MOTY had to be closer to reflect my dissent.
One of the first sites I found, however, failed to tell me the full voting record. It turned out to be someone’s personal ballot, probably not even a baseball writer. And then my manual cookie-acceptance filters started going crazy and extra windows started popping open and I tried to shut down Firefox as fast as I could. Firefox closed and instead of shutting down my computer as fast as possible, I stupidly reopened the browser and started looking for those elusive vote totals.
I found them (Wak got 2 first-place votes! Gardenhire was second overall! Generally intelligent votes abounded, save for the inane voting for Joe Girardi), but also soon found that there was a weird-looking virus “detection” pop-up message on my screen too, letting me know that a program called “System Defender” had found all these viruses and wanted me to take action right away.
I’m not a fan of anti-virus software in general or even conceptually, since almost every anti-virus software program I’ve ever found either (A) charges money, (B) is actually a virus, or (C) both. Making differentiations between the programs seems almost impossible and their effectiveness is often dubious even at the highest level. Recently, though, I have had a good bit of success with the popular (and free) Malwarebytes Anti-Malware program which seems to be pretty well regarded and has yet to act like a virus itself.
Judiciously wary of the purported software, the name “System Defender”, and the Windows-look-alike shield that just says “I am phishily trying to trick you” all over it, I avoided clicking on anything in this program and furiously got my Anti-Malware running. It found several problematic files, then did its magic, and I figured I’d be all set.
It took about three full restart runs of this pattern (restart, swear at the fact that the System Defender dubiously reappeared upon restart, run Anti-Malware, restart, repeat) before I started looking for an end-run solution around this tried and true methodology. And then I had to go to intramural basketball (my triumphant return after a week of illness), so I just shut my computer down for a while to let it think about what it had done.
This post should just be about basketball and my love of the game and how good it felt to be healthy enough to play and still fell I was getting air to my lungs, how I need to start playing twice a week with or without IM’s, how my muscle memory has preserved my downtown 3-point shot but the streakiness of said shooting remains, how we lost by a point in a hard-fought struggle, and so on. But System Defender had other plans for my night.
I won’t regale you with every twist and turn in my battle with this nefarious software or my ultimate conquest. Some highlights of things that I learned or remembered along the way, though:
- Internet forums are generally helpful in aiding the deletion of known virus software, but they only go so far. Eventually, you will be on your own and have to outwit the beast.
- You will have to reveal hidden files, INCLUDING system files that Microsoft warns you against revealing as though it were the file that proves Microsoft is a monopoly.
- You should search by date and try to pinpoint files created within the first 2-3 minutes of infection. Narrowing file searches by date will allow you to find and delete most everything.
- Safe Mode is your friend. Restart in Safe Mode by pressing F8, then delete the files that won’t go down because the nefarious program is still running.
Even if this doesn’t help you, this list will be invaluable to me in the future, so chalk it up to notes on how to combat the dangers of the future.
Of course, once I’d finally deleted everything, had a successful restart without the bad program, danced around the room, and gotten over my euphoria, I realized that Task Manager was still down. It had gone down in the wake of System Defender’s original attack, never to return despite repeated pressing of control-alt-delete and right clicking of the taskbar and so on. Even with System Defender defeated, it had left this one vestige of its success.
To which the answer was, of course, System Restore. That only took 3 Internet forums and several bad pieces of harder advice to figure out. System Restore timestamps the Windows settings every 24 hours or so and saves them for a while in case you want to backtrack in time from a serious mistake. This alone would not have wiped out the virus, but it was enough to put a bow on the restoration effort once I’d taken out all the mysteriously buried files it had installed.
For those of you reading this narrative in terror for the status of my novel which has been written in its entirety on this computer, fear not. I’ve been backing it up almost constantly in several different locations, including my secret cache under the mountains of Utah (seriously). By far my larger concern was lost time in working on the novel if the problem persisted or if I would have to get a new computer or do some larger restart of the whole thing. Not that this program ever looked threatening enough to do such things – after all, I could still access all my files, just with an annoying series of occasional pop-ups in the background.
But System Defender may have won this night, if not the war. My beloved word counter in WordPress tells me that I’m closing in on 1200 words for this post, aggravating if only because that would be a half-decent night of writing, but instead I’ve been regaling the torments of my last few hours. Sigh. Maybe there’s something still left in the tank. Time to go find out.