Daddy, what’s a virus?

Recently a friend of ours got a new computer. It was running Windows. After four days of owning it, they had a virus.

Recently a friend of ours got a new computer. It was running Windows. After four days of owning it, they had a virus.

Now, I won’t even go off on how crappy Windows is and all that, because the bottom line is really that you install software from sources you trust, right? Right. (Except in the case of your crappy software vendor’s browser installing things without your permission, but I won’t get into that either.) So, since many people know I’m a “computer guy” I got enlisted to help.

(BTW, it confuses many people when you tell them that you indeed are a computer guy, but you really don’t use Windows. Try it sometime.)

It was all quite exciting, since the last time I dealt with a virus was the Autostart worm of 1998, which was extremely easy to deal with. Since I don’t really use Windows, I don’t worry much about the virus problem. So here I was, attempting to kill a Windows virus on someone’s 4-day old PC… What next?

Well, I first tried the anti-virus software, which did not fix the problem. I tried to update the anti-virus software. It didn’t help. I had no idea what I was doing since the last time I used anti-virus software was probably around 1994 when System 7 was totally awesome. So I then managed to track down the scumware and attempted to delete it. I could not delete it all. I tried killing the process, no good. Tried logging in as another user and killing it, no good. Tried combinations of all of those things while standing on head. No good. It was cool to see all of the files suddely appear in the directory. The virus seemed to be self-repairing software. Neat!

I ended up recommending a complete re-install of system. Friend did that, but afterwards reported that virus was still there, and I realized that a re-installation did not whack it, but probably would have if we wiped the disk. I don’t know how to do that in Windows.

So ends my brush with a Windows virus.

As for the “Daddy, what’s a virus?” title, that’s what my daughter asked me that night. She’s been using computers for almost 7 years, and has probably never heard the words “computer” and “virus” in the same sentence at our house. We runs Macs and we run Linux. The only windows around here are made out of glass and let the sun shine in…