In a move that has proved to be penny wise and pound foolish I have ran the last two years with an expired copy of PCcillian, my virus checker. I justified this stupidity because I am extremely cautious on the Internet, only going to trusted sites, run an old email client that cannot take a virus by email (and do not give out my real email address to anyone I do not trust), and because in 23 years of computing have only ever gotten two viruses and never been in a position where I have lost everything.
All that ended yesterday. I was searching for a photograph of the Sombrero Galaxy in anticipation of a blog I wanted to write when I hit a re-director and my web browser was hijacked. I heard my hard drive start to churn but immediately shut down the browser and thought I was safe. I had to go out later and thought no more of it, Until this morning.
This morning I woke to discover that my wall paper was corrupt. Then discovered that every single Jpeg on the computer had been overwritten with a picture that was 5K in size and was a picture of text that said 'FileError 21001.' All my Excel worksheet files had similarly been corrupted, the data erased and containing but a single entry that said "FileError 21001."
My computer started making a few feeble attempts to contact a web site to "fix" my problem which my two year old virus checker was preventing. Why hadn't it prevented this in the first place?
Several hours of work, dozens of virus checkers later, I gave up. This virus had infected deep within the XP operating system. I could not get rid of it and this particular virus was so new that none of the big virus companies, Norton, MacAfee, etc, had caught up with it. So, on one hand it would seem that even having had an unexpired checker wouldn't have saved me, but on another it would, You see the newer ones like PCcillian Pro have a feature to lock system files to prevent them from being corrupted.
Fixing this is beyond me. The computer needs to be reformatted and XP and all the drivers reinstalled and, frankly, while I am hardly a neophyte, I don't want to do it. I have taken it to the computer store where I will fork over $125.00 to get someone else to fix it.
And suddenly they are inundated with computers needing attention. Go figure. So it will probably be Friday before I get my box back. Using this laptop is a major pain in the ass so it will be until then before I am back online for any length of time. If you don't see me on your pages or answering your comments, this is why,
And once the computer is back and I have paid Discovery Computers by $125 I will be paying Trend Micro $69 for a new virus checker/internet security program. Then I will pay the dentist $900 for my new crown and I will pay various stores several hundred for Christmas presents.
"Tis the season it would seem.
So, friends, make sure your virus and security software is up to date. You do not want this one! (I had no back up of all my pictures nor of my Excel spreadsheets or any of my other data. It is all lost and will take months to recover even a fraction of it. Most of it cannot be recovered and that information is lost forever.)
I will respond to you all when I am back up and running with my desktop.
(Originally posted to Multiply December 1, 2008)