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PC Virus Infection

Computer virii are a real threat to us photographers as they can crash your computer or delete hard drive content. You sometime need to completely re-install your PC in order to regain useability. This Sunday I discovered that my PC was infected by several virii while I was away in Norway. My wife must have been accessing infected websites or emails. But all attempts to access any website were redirected to another one. Windows has also detected the infection and so was my antivirus but it was already too late and the virus has downloaded several other ones including Rootkit and Trojans. I was very concerned as I did not want to go thru all the process of reinstalling my computer and risk the lost of recent work.

So after 2 days analysing the situation and running all sort of antivirus and spyware removal tools I've been able to regain a stable system.

A computer virus is like a biological virus, it infected the host and try to spread in the system and then use the system to infect other hosts.

Once a virus has infected your computer it will try to spread in it and multiply it self in order to raise its chance of survival if you try to remove it. Some smart virii do also manage to hide from Anti-Virus softwares or disable them. The virus that has infected my computer seemed to be downloaded by something else that was not a virus or a spyware and thus was not detected by my antivirus. It then in turn download other virii and spywares that spread all over the system. My control panel has been partially deactivated, I've lost access to Regedit the Windows Registry Editor and was also unable to install additional software which prevents me from installing other virus removal tools. By Hi-Jacking my browsers, the virus did also prevent me from downloading those removal tools.

Hopefully, I have a laptop which I used to download most recent tools and transfered them to my desktop PC. So you must be wondering how I can install those tools if the virus has disabled everything?

The first thing to do is to reboot your computer and start windows in Safe Mode. This can be done by pressing F8 repeatedly when the computer is rebooting until you see the windows boot menu asking you to choose in which mode to boot windows. From there select Safe Mode. Once inside I suggest to install and run the following free tools to download:

  • Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. This tool additionnaly to the detection of malwares, will also re-enable Regedit and some settings needed to install other tools.
  • SUPERAntiSpyware (or Professional).
  • CCleaner. This tool will destroy all personal settings from all your browsers, temporary files etc... This is to ensure that your system will start in a cleaner state.
  • Avast Anti-Virus. You may also need to run this anti-virus to clean all trace of virus and spywares from your system.
  • Spybot Search & Destroy. Install it with the TeaTimer protection and Immunize your computer.
  • Ad-Aware 2009.

You may need to launch these tools in a different order than me and sometimes you will need to launch one then the other and then the previous one again until all of those tools detect no virus, spywares or malwares at all. This is because some malwares can redownload themselves or others while you are cleaning the system. So a deep cleaning is necessary. If a tool offers to scan your computer at boot time, do so! As this will ensure that windows is not loaded yet and thus no virus is in memory: it is easier to remove a virus when it is not running.

After regaining stable access to your system you can remove all those tools and only keep Avast Antivirus and Spybot Search & Destroy. But keep the installation files of the others in a safe place and keep them up to date.

Do a regular backup!

Even if you will never get any virus, a backup is necessary as you are not safe from a hard drive crash or other hardware failure. So go and buy an external hard drive, they are very cheap now. For about 80£ you can get an external USB hard disk of around 1000GB. For that price you can even buy two of them and backup all files in both for double safety. There are loads of backup softwares and your hard drive may also come with a bundled one. Try to keep photographs on a separate drive than applications or run a virus scan on applications to backup before as you don't want to backup virii!

Do your backup regularly to avoid to loose too much at the same time if a crash occurs. The best thing would be to backup as soon as you transfer your pictures from your memory card to your computer.

If you are a Mac user then then you already have a backup system available for free: the Time Machine. Just plug in your external hard drive and Mac will ask you if you want to turn it into a Time Machine. Answer yes and it will format the drive and start backing up everything automatically every hours and keeps a history by hours, days, weeks, months and year. If something goes wrong you can recover any file, folder or drive at their state at a specified date. You can even buy a new hard drive and re-install the whole system including OS, apps and data from the backup at any point in time. If your backup drive is full then oldest backup are automatically deleted. Just awesome!

For Windows users, Genie Soft has developed Genie Timeline a Time Machine for Windows. It is currently not backuping the whole system though, only your data but you don't have to think about backup anymore.

If you have other tips or advices for computer virus prevention or eradication, please add them as a comment below.

Wish you good luck and never encounter a virus infection.


protecting your computer

Prevention is better than cure, and there's no need to spend a penny on either. Install the free version of the Zone Alarm firewall, and the free version of Avira Antivir, as well as Ad Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. Zone Alarm is always on, and works to prevent external attacks. Antivir is also always on and should prevent user infection by scanning files as they are opened. Antivir scans daily, and you can scan with Spybot and Ad Aware weekly to be safe.

Another thing to do is avoid using Microsoft software. If you browse the internet, use Mozilla Firefox. It's a far superior browser and more secure than IE, if only because hackers focus mainly on Microsoft products. It has a setting which uses Google's database of infected sites to prevent you even opening pages that present a risk to your computer.

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