Posted by: bkivey | 9 July 2010

Ctrl-Alt-Del

Usually on Friday I’ll try to serve up something at least moderately amusing, but this Friday I am not amused. When I fired up my computer this morning I found that a malware had breached my firewall and antivirus/antispyware programs and completely hijacked the operating system. Every time I tried to do something the malware would pop up a little message telling me that the file was infected and wouldn’t run. Like a lot of people, if my computer doesn’t run I’m out of business and definitely SOL.

So whatever I was going to do today went right out the window as fixing my computer became Job One, and really, there was only one thing to do, a clean installation of the OS and application suite, although this is a case where the cure is nearly as bad as the disease. I wasn’t worried about losing anything important, because I back up work when I make changes to a file. Every. Single. Time. I have learned this. I also took the advice of a geek friend several years ago and put the OS in a partition separate from the data files, because, as he put it, “Viruses usually go for the operating system and that way you can confine the damage.”

Reinstalling the OS and application suite means stuff goes away. Peripheral drivers: gone. Scores of bookmarked websites: gone. Updates to the OS since the last installation over three years ago: gone. Internet connection: gone. Time for productive activity today: gone. Crap somebody put on my machine and I’d love to meet them in a dark alley: gone.

Having current backups of all my files: Effing priceless.

After several hours of reloading software and updates and spending an hour figuring out that for some reason my computer will now only talk to the old ethernet card I’m more or less back in business. The loss of bookmarks is a problem, but now I’ve learned to back those up, too. And while I was engaged in this massive waste of time, a recurring fantasy came to mind.

I have sometimes thought, along with many others, I’m sure, that there must be a group of hackers with the white hats. People who track down and ‘fix’ the promulgators of malware, spyware, viruses, and other malicious perversions of the progammers art. Yes, I know that the people who engage in this sort of activity are usually very good at hiding their tracks: using innocent websites and servers to spread their disease, but surely not all of them are invulnerable. Maybe publishing names and addresses. Not that I would endorse illegal activity. I’m just sayin’.

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