Viral Warfare

Posted by admin - 12/09/11 at 06:09 am

Let’s start at the beginning. Once upon a time, my little steam-powered nigh-obsolete computer acquired a couple of nasty virus worms that ate holes in my Windows like cyber-termites, resulting in a great expense of both money and profanity. After that, I went out and purchased one of those big boxes full of software guaranteed to keep me safe from viruses, hackers, porn merchants, Nigerian scammers, and the Patriot Act.

For a year, I was safe as a newborn websurfing babe, confident in the cyber-body armor I was wearing. But then, as it always seems to happen, my subscription ran out.

I actually went for a month without updated virus protection, which is the equivalent of running naked through the Serengeti with raw meat glued to your body. Then I started to hear about the new viruses, the awful worms that didn’t come through email. They actually waited until you were asleep, climbed out the front of your disk drive, and attached themselves to your brain while you slept.

Now bear in mind I had no reason to believe my sheer force of will could keep my computer safe. In computer terms, I live in the really bad part of town. I received sometimes as many as fifty virus emails a day. A brief flirtation with filesharing had grafted something called “games.exe” onto my hard drive that was undeletable, started before my computer did, and occasionally manifested itself in advertising pop-ups even after my computer was unplugged.

To make matters worse, my incoming email was so full of profanity, I was convinced it was infected with some kind of techno-Tourettes. However, I soon discovered that was just from angry Miami Heat fans. Oh well.

Anyway, for some reason I decided to switch things up on the home defense front. I had been using one brand, we’ll call them Normal Anti-Virus to spare me any nasty lawsuits later. When it came time to renew my subscription, my naturally inquisitive nature led me to wonder what else was out there, and more importantly, could I save $5 by buying it?

Let me explain the nature of the Reid, here. I am a compulsive purchaser of bargain items. The sight of me entering a Big Lots causes stock to soar. If offered a deep enough discount, I will buy things I wouldn’t take if you gave them to me. I am the reason for dollar menus at fast food restaurants. I have said things like, “How much is the McChicken? A dollar? I’ll take five of them.”

So when I saw the other company that makes Anti-Virus software, which we’ll call McNasty, had their protection suite for twenty dollars cheaper, I jumped at the chance. Literally. It was sitting on the top row of the shelves.

I brought the product home, and installed it. Or at least I thought I did. McNasty software didn’t really have a easy way to figure out if your virus definitions were up to date. So I checked, then tried to update, and checked again.

McNasty had found a bunch of viruses, including the leftover “games.exe.” It asked if I wanted to delete them, I said sure.

Not to slide off topic, but why would the computer bother to stop what it was doing to ask me what to do with the virus it found? I didn’t spend fifty bucks on some kind of U.N. Fact Finding Mission Virus software. If you find it, eliminate it. That’s like your maid waking you up to ask if you want her to clean up that vomit in the den.

McNasty deleted it and all the other files that came up with it, then I restarted the computer. Whenever you install a big piece of software, you must restart your computer at least six times. Can’t explain it, but it’s the law.

As my computer came back up, I was greeted with about twelve different questions. Apparently, every program on my computer was trying to get on the internet at once and McNasty wanted to play traffic cop. To make matters more confusing, none of the programs were recognizable, resulting in questions like

Program schnitzeldork.exe is trying access 67.345.5440orfight. Do you want to allow this?
– No, get rid of it, even though I have no idea what the program is and I might actually be deleting my daughter’s birth records.
– Sure, what the Hell.

While sorting through those, McNasty tells me that “games.exe” is trying to hook up to the internet again. Great, I not only have a virus, it’s now risen from the dead to seek vengeance.

I check the file, it’s still there. Like Green Lantern’s ring against yellow, McNasty is helpless against games.exe. I resign myself to sharing my computer with games.exe for the rest of my life, and look at some of the other fun toys McNasty offers.

I check the records of people trying to hack into my computer. I’m online all the time, so I get about a dozen people an hour stop by my computer and jiggle the handle to see if it will open. For some reason, McNasty offers me a visual on where the hacking attempts are coming from. I check it out, only to find out most of them are in Taiwan. That perplexes me. I picture a team of Taiwanese hackers in LeBron James jerseys, all ticked off at me and hungering for vengeance against the smart-mouthed infidel who cracked wise at their esteemed one.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a new problem. McNasty’s Security System is refusing to open more than one internet window at a time. When I surf, I open windows like a second-floor burglar. Now, I can’t get more than one open without the pop-up blocker knocking it down. I emailed McNasty about it, and they sent me instructions on how to disable the pop-up blocker, which means I just paid fifty bucks to install software and then turn it off.

I start to wonder about a program that can’t tell the difference between windows opened by me and windows opened by evil computers not located in my house.

A day after I install the software, I’m checking my email when I notice it’s downloading an update for the firewall. Great, I think, we’ve got to stay ahead of the Taiwanese Hit Squad. It finishes, then I check McNasty’s Security Center to see if everything’s finished.

And I no longer have a firewall.

It’s gone. The firewall, which is the program keeping my family safe from the evil Taiwanese Liberation Front has vanished. I check it again, it’s still gone. Even better, when I click on the Firewall portion of the Security Center, ads pop up to try and sell me McNasty’s Internet Firewall.

I grow less and less amused by the moment.

I restart the computer, because I figured at some point the program would tell me to anyway. No change. Games.exe is still there, the firewall isn’t.

I insert the McNasty disk, and try and reinstall the Firewall portion of the program. Nothing happens. I try and reinstall the entire suite, nothing changes. I begin to wonder if I ever owned a firewall program, or if I was just hallucinating. I’m not sure what reality is anymore, I feel like Ryan from “Wilfred.”

Sick of McNasty, I put the disk back in and just try and take the entire security suite off. I figure I’ll clean the whole thing off and start over again. I uninstall everything, then go to check my mail before starting the Bataan Death Install again.

Except my mail’s not there.

I can’t connect. I load up Internet Explorer to check the web, and nothing happens there either. I am locked out of the internet. With its last gasp, McNasty has extracted its vengeance from me.

Of course, McNasty’s home page does offer tech support forums to help me deal with problems like this. You can see the obvious problems with their software locking me out of the internet, then directing me to their website for assistance.

Somewhere, I hear Taiwanese people laughing at me.

I dig on my computer to see if there’s anything left-over that I might be able to use to either get my computer working, or find somebody with McNasty so I can hunt them down and kill them. And there, right in front of me, is McNasty’s Security Center.

Apparently, telling the computer to uninstall McNasty just makes the programs sit there. They don’t actually go away, they just sit there. It’s like cleaning out your refrigerator, and just leaving all the old meat sitting on your kitchen floor.

In anger, I sum up all of the experience I gained in my seven years of junior college and wipe McNasty off my computer. A few restarts and a panicked call to a twenty-four hour tech shop gets me back on the internet.

A few hours later, I’ve got the other Anti-Virus program, the one that doesn’t keep your computer from getting infected by keeping you off of it.

And McNasty is headed onto EBay, a real bargain for a soul more patient that I am.

— Reid Kerr wishes there were a virus that kept you from going to TMZ.com.

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