I had hardly ever heard about these things in the days leading up to what happpen to me, but somehow I just happened to hear about Rootkits and special programs to detect them. It was a couple of weeks before that I had visited SysInternals.com to grab some of their utilities. One of their new programs was the “Root Kit Revealer”. It seemed like a good idea to grab that one too while I was there, but I was busy at the time and it just sat in my pile of “yet to be looked at” programs.
Needless to say, that since that moment there was the thought in the back of my mind that I needed to check out my machine at somepoint. This thought nagged at me for a while before I actually did check it out… motivated as I was by some strange and unexplainable behaviours in my computer. Such things as keys not registering being pressed, internet going fast and then slow and fast again, the computer heating up significantly during idle times when I was away from it, and stuff like that.
So when I checked everything out, it turned out that there was something on my machine. Now, not knowing much about these things, I still wonder if it really was there or not. Perhaps it was a ghost, and I overreacted, but after reading about the insecurity that comes from having one of these things, I could not take the chance. I did all that I knew possible to remove this thing from my PC and although parts of it seemed to go, other parts kept reappearing on every restart.
My anti-virus program did not fix it, and nor did my anti-spyware program. But they say that this is the way it works… it is something that is invisible to windows normally, and hides from these sorts of programs. So after unsuccessful attempts at removing it, I decided that the only thing left was following the advice given for these things… and reformatted my hard drive to reinstall Windows once again.
It is amazing the amount of stuff that sits on my computer that I still consider useful. Since this event I have become much more ruthless with which files I save, but there is still a bunch of stuff. Worst of all was sorting through the mazes of folders to find and save all of my important information.
I described this experience to someone that knew very little about computers as being very similar to moving everything out of your house because of some nasty fungus, destroying the house, and then rebuilding it again and moving all of your stuff back into it. It is about the same sort of effort, although a different scale and level.
So the end of it all is that I am now up and running again, without any nasty viruses, and have nothing much different to last time. Just a few hours less sleep. How did I get it in the first place? I am not really sure. I remember running a downloaded file once, thinking that my protection programs were active, but my anti-spyware program was not working at the time. That experience loaded my computer with a bunch of nasties… perhaps at that point it entered my PC. In any case, I have learned to be extra careful now-a-days. After all, they say for good reason…
“once bitten twice shy”.