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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another fun hour with Windows

If your Windows computer starts telling you that you need "ThinkPoint" to get rid of a virus, then you already have a virus called "ThinkPoint." It runs a file called hotfix.exe, which is going to make your computer quite stupid. Whatever you do, do not buy anything from ThinkPoint!

It's a sinister little bugger, with the Microsft logo being displayed and everything. Especially if you recent switched over to Microsoft Security Essentials, which of course allows this virus right in, it's easy to be fooled.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will get rid of the virus, as will other reputable malware removal tools. There are also some helpful suggestions about what to do here. (Alas, once ThinkPoint is running, it won't let your computer go anywhere, much less there.)

There's a special place in hell for the psychos who create these things.

Comments (18)

Sorry to hear you are a target for these things. ThinK of it as a dress rehearsal for some real mischief.

There's a special place in hell for the psychos who create these things.

Contemplating that possibility doesn't cut it for me anymore. Won't somebody produce a Charles Bronson-style vigilante movie where these guys get some instant karma?

I think Tarantino could pull it off.

It's already been done ~ He Who Gets Slapped (MGM, 1924).
Starring Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert. Victor Sjöström, Director.

Must . . . not . . . type . . . sugge---

there, back under control. Whew. Almost mentioned the obvious.

Actually, one thing I will ask -- you know that all newer Apples let you run your Windows programs, right? If you run down and buy an Intel-based Apple, you can set it up so that a chunk of the hard drive is for Windows and associated programs -- meanwhile, you use the Apple side to do all your communicating with the world, and you can pass files back and forth.

You can do it manually using Boot Camp, which comes with your Apple OS (meaning you turn off your computer to switch back and forth -- probably not how you would want to roll).

Or you can buy Parallels, which lets you run both, side-by-side, but keeps you from having to expose the fragile and sickness-prone Windows OS to the "psychos" -- you simply run whatever Windows programs you like in their little cocoon, while you keep the Apple side running for getting things done without having to waste hours on malware.

I got something just yesterday that ran as some kind of disk defragmenter. HDD Defragmenter it was called. Told me there were critical errors on my hard drive, I foolishly ran the utility, then it told me I needed to upgrade to the premium version to fix the problem. Fortunately I'm not that foolish.

There's a special place in hell for the psychos who create these things.

There's a reason why hackers target Windows far more than any Unix-based OS (no, it's not market share)--Windows is a sloppy, poorly-designed mess. It's like a 1938 Ford that's gotten countless upgrades to the body, tires and electronics, but still uses the original engine and drive train. It's never been anything more than mediocre. Makes you wonder why the business world made it self so dependent upon it, doesn't it?

Go right past Apple to Linux. That's where I'm headed. 'Just a little problem getting Windows XP to let me change the BIOS on my netbook.

For this and many other reasons, even though all my personal and work computers have always been PCs, our family's next computer is going to be a Mac. Sorry, had to say it, and no, I'm not getting any kickbacks from Steve Jobs. I actually used to like tinkering with all the settings and maintenance routines in my PC. But I've grown tired of babying them, especially now that I have real babies I'd rather spend my time with.

Jack, here's a brief, intriguing essay on the topic that I think's worth reading:


You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Apple is overpriced for what it does, but they can get it as you have to be Apple all the way. And, when they come out with a major update to the OS, you spend again for the hardware. Apparently, the EE community didn't buy in but went to the PC as the default computing system.

I have no doubt that Apple has apps that only run on PC, for certain engineering functions, so they invent processes by which they can run these apps on Appla as a PC. You Mac people know what they are.

So far as MS Security letting the virus in, no soap. You let it in, Jack, and it is as easy to infect a Mac that way. What you cannot do with Mac is get to it without the cooperation of the user. I find this is also true of Security Essentials. (Of course, with enough ingenuity, no doubt MS Security can be bypassed. Norton, McAfee, AVG etc all have been "had" in that matter.) I have a long story about that but not here, not now.

My Dell got infected as well through an Acrobat document, and MS Security found it and eliminated it post haste.

So, again, if you have the money, go get a Mac. I have no problem with that. So far as admin is concerned, running multiple Macs will require certain admin skills as well to have them all run together stably. Look at the ads in Craigslist and there are plenty of ads for just such people, but they also want PC skills as well.

Linux appears to have a position in the server industry. There probably will be an uptick among PC users as time goes on, but for the moment, Adobe reuses to consider the request from Photoshop users to supply a Linux version, based on returns for engineering invested. At least, that's what they say.

This last post by Starbuck has so much erroneous nonsense in it that it would take several pages to set it straight.

Allen, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Ah, the old "Apple is overpriced" excuse.

If only "what is does" were the only purchasing criteria, you might have a point. What a Yugo "does" is get you around--and so does a Honda. But you don't often hear people say "hey, that Yugo costs less than the Honda, so the Honda is overpriced for 'what it does'", or "hey, that condo is way cheaper than that bungalow, so that bungalow is overpriced for 'what it does'", and so on.

The problem, of course, is that PC computers have become commodified--so people expect them to be interchangeable in quality and function. Price has become the only meaningful factor. If you want a *real* comparison, look at return rates and repairs. Surprise--no computer maker even comes close to Apple's customer satisfaction:


So I always tell people choosing solely on price--get the cheapest computer you can find, because you're choosing with commodity criteria, like toilet paper. That way, when it becomes junk soon, you can just throw it away and buy another one.

Starbuck: Allan L is correct. You are... not so much.

About a third of my day job is removing malware from Windows machines, so I know a wee bit of what I speak. (Sucks, but it's a living.)

This particular malware, like most modern malware, does not require the user to click on anything obviously malicious. Usually people infected with these things visit nothing more threatening than msn.com, or some other website which displays brokered ads. A malware distributor crafts a malicious script or flash object, which they place with an ad buy in the brokerage service. It slips through whatever screening process may exist, is displayed on a popular page, and BOOM! My phone starts ringing.

I have seen these things waft through the latest AVG, Norton, and McAfee. I have seen them bypass the subscription-only active component of Malwarebytes. I have seen them infect Windows 7/64-bit.

The best defense is to simply not run scripts or flash objects from the web. Firefox with the extensions AdBlock Plus and NoScript, and optionally Flashblock, will help a lot. (Though it will be pretty annoying for daily use.)

All platforms are vulnerable to PDF and Flash exploits, though Windows is the prime target these days. So also keep Adobe Reader (new version Reader X rlased just last week!) and Flash current. Turn on their autoupdaters and when you see an update request, do it immediately. Same goes for Windows updates.

There's viable malware for Mac out now as well. Sophos has a free AV client; time to armor up, macheads.

Jack: Do not assume you are clear because malwarebytes says you are. Make sure Windows updates run via the website. If not, get TDSSKiller from Kaspersky and mbr.exe from Gmer.

Ah, fun times at the PC-Mac wars! The more they are different, the more they are the same!

FWIW, I understand that Win7 was supposed to be as secure as Mac, until the A/V industry sued under what, anti-trust? because that would have put them out of business. Don't know how true that is.

If so, I would guess that's why MS came out with Security Essentials, making it backwards compatible.

Unfortunately, people don't trust MS, and for good reason.

Win7 is definitely better, particularly the 64bit version. But the bad guys are highly motivated and nothing is unbreakable.

As for the classic war, it's probably worth mentioning that I work on Windows for a living, but my own computer is a Mac. :-)

I got up this morning and watched a video by Mark Russinovich on the unexplained, as he calls it, and how sysinternals' tools were used to deal with everything from sluggish operations to full on BSOD, with attention to differences between Vista and Win7. He made no attempts to hide what he thinks of some of MS stuff, particularly Office.

Revived my interest in sysinternal tools.


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