It's been a long time since I've had to deal with a malware-laden PC, but my long streak of luck ran out this weekend when a family friend--who describes himself as computer illiterate--called. "Every time I try to do anything on the computer," he told me, "I get a message saying it's infected, and I have to pay $69 to clean it, but I tried to do that and I couldn't." He couldn't even navigate to the Mozilla site to download Firefox; Internet Explorer was completely hijacked.
So, armed with a thumbdrive loaded with Chrome and AdAware installation files, I headed over there to take a look. Here's what I found:
* The Norton AV trial subscription that came with Windows XP had expired and stopped protecting the machine, which was connected directly to my friend's broadband ISP with Windows Firewall turned off.* Windows XP hadn't been updated since before SP2 had come out, because a friend of my friend told him not to trust any automatic updates. Because they might be spyware.* Rogue software called XP AntiSpyware had taken over the machine.
Hard to not laugh or cry for these people. Not so hard to stay mad at those who make it possible.