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> Pop-ups, viruses, and other nasty computer things, A quick guide of things to try
post Jul 16 2005, 12:04 PM
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It seems that a lot of messages in here are about pop-ups, viruses, and other problems that may well be preventable, so here's a quick list of some basic things you need to help keep your machine clear of problems, or to fix themÖ And all of it is free!

There are three angles that you need to have covered. This isnít a ĎIíll get around to ití task: not having these is just asking for your machine to be attacked. Itís as simple as that. Sadly crackers (malicious hackers) are always looking for new machines to get into, and yours can and probably will be next if you donít protect it. You need:


Anti-Virus (AV)

For a free and good piece of anti-virus software try Avast!:


A virus is generally considered to be a destructive program that can cause your computer serious harm. Nasty stuff.

Most PCs come with something installed on them already these days. Usually this will be Norton, which personally I donít rate very highly especially considering you have to pay for it. Avast does the same job but itís free and arguably better. You make the choice! It also has the added benefit of a piratical name. Yarr!

If you need a quick-fix, or youíre not confident that your AV software has picked up everything then try Trendís free online scan:


It only works through Internet Explorer, because IE lets you open up your machine to pretty much anyone online if you are tricked into clicking the wrong link. This is just one example of how much really can happen to your machine when youíre online. Fortunately, Trend are a brilliant company and this online scan can be very handy if you want to give your machine a check. Itíll probably take at least an hour, so donít be in any hurry, but what were you expecting for your whole machine to be checked?

Run the AV software at least once a month or whenever your computer begins acting strangely. Always update your definitions as often as possible!


This includes things that make pop-up adverts appear on your machine. Iíve never had and fully intend never to have advertising pop-ups on my website, so if youíre seeing them while on http://www.matazone.co.uk then youíve got something nasty hiding in your machine. Anti-Spyware software can remove this.

Spyware, also called malware, can record what sites you are visiting, personal details that you type in, email your documents to a stranger, and can even open your machine up to a remote computer which would allow them to browse through your directories. You donít want this on your machine!

I suggest getting two pieces of software to cover your bases:



As with everything in this list, itís free. Itís a nice, professionally presented package that does a nice scan of your machine and identifies potentially risky files and gives you the option to delete them. On a healthy machine most of the time it will just find a few cookies (small pieces of information used by banner adverts to track how many times youíve seen their advert, not a big risk at all, but nice to get rid of), but on an unhealthy one there can be all kinds of things from strange reg-keys to trojans. Iím not going into detail about all of these things, but youíll want to be rid of these.

As well as Ad-Aware you should also get Spybot Search & Destroy:


Between that, Ad-Aware, and your AV software you should be able to nuke anything bad on your system. Both Spybot and Ad-Aware basically do similar things overall, but Spybot has an 'immunisation' facility that can prevent nasty things from getting onto your machine again in future. Clever stuff, and again itís free and legal to download.

I suggest running both of these programs about once a week to keep your machine nice and clean. Once a month run a full system check with Ad-Aware, but the rest of the time the Ďsmart system scaní will be fine.

As with the AV software, always update your definitions as often as possible!


A good, free, firewall is Zone Alarm:


(Link edited 21st April 2006)

When you first use a firewall it will often ask you loads of times about whether you want to allow systems to access the internet. You'd be amazed at how much of Windows wants to talk online to other things all the time. Generally it's best to let anything from the System32 folder to talk if it wants to. Do a really good scan of your system for spyware and viruses before installing it (which is why Iíve put the list in this order) and then you should be able to comfortably agree to let pretty much everything access the system when you first run it. After the first few days you will probably almost never get asked questions by it unless you're installing new software, and then it's just a case of saying 'yes' and ticking the 'don't ask me again' box. If in doubt, Google for the bit of software that the firewall is asking about to make sure that it's supposed to be on your system.


All of the above are essential. A good firewall can stop a lot of the rubbish getting onto your machine, a good Anti-Virus can stop the majority of things that get through from doing any harm, and a good suite of Anti-Spyware software can stop the daily dirge of junk clogging up your machine. Inevitably sometimes things will get through, but with everything listed here you should be able to fix most things before they become a problem.

If you find something that none of the software can remove then try Googling for the name of the virus and the word Ďremovalí and youíll find manual instructions of how to get rid of it. Usually this will involve starting your machine in safe-mode. If youíre interested in more information about the point of starting your machine in safe-mode then do a Google for it!

As always, everything written here is accurate at the time Iím writing it, and has been used by millions of people around the world, but if you do somehow manage to kill your machine then itís not my faultÖ Blah, yadda, usual disclaimer.

If you havenít got this stuff, or software like it then thatís nearly 100% certain to eventually get your machine into problems, but there might be a .001% chance youíll screw it up putting this stuff on. You do the maths of which approach seems most risky!

Added 25th January 2008:

Two more useful things I've found:


Vundofix is specifically designed to fight infections by Virtumonde. This generally causes advertising windows to pop up on your machine every few minutes trying to sell you anti-virus software - naturally, the software will also put the adverts on your machine too, but that time you'll have paid for the honour. It will basically do its job, but not very well. This is known as 'greyware', stuff that sort-of works, but is really quite dodgy.

The Virtumonde infection copies itself to various locations on your drive and reinstalls any ones that you have deleted when the machine restarts, making it very hard to remove. You have to get them all at once or it'll come straight back.


Look2Me destroyer is another specialised tool for removing the malware from your machine. It's another sneaky infection like Virtumonde, so this tool is great for nuking it if your virus scans keep on finding new copies.

If your scans keep on finding new things then try googling for the names of the infections or the symptoms (for example, I found I had Virtumonde once by goolging for the names of the software that was advertised in the pop-ups).

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Poppa Moo
post Jan 9 2009, 10:58 PM
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I would avoid AVG as the new (ish) version 8 is as slow as a 3-legged dog dragging a 10 ton weight. After being with AVG the only other free AV's I found out there that were any good were AVAST which has already been mentioned, Avira AntiVir (www.freeav.com) and RisingAV (www.rising-global.com).

I have tried all the above and would definitely say to stick with Avast or Avira as these are the quickest and most thorough of all free anti-virus.

Ad-Aware is most definitely the best Anti-Spyware out there, but for the overly-cautious there's no harm in backing it up with Spybot-S&D.

I tend not to deal with firewalls, so no comment from me there, I've stuck with the Windows Firewall. I know it ain't the bee's knees, but I've not had any trouble yet as my Router has a NAT firewall built in.
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Posts in this topic
- Mata   Pop-ups, viruses, and other nasty computer things   Jul 16 2005, 12:04 PM
- - Forever Unknown   Mata, firstly, fabulously helpful post. I've j...   Jan 20 2006, 02:56 AM
- - Mr Fuzzy   So Sygate were bought by Symantec eh? Nasty. Perso...   Jan 20 2006, 08:36 AM
- - Mata   Cheers for the link Fuzzy, I've put an update ...   Jan 20 2006, 10:15 AM
- - Forever Unknown   Thanks Barry. Wonderfully helpful. Also, for the ...   Jan 20 2006, 01:41 PM
- - Mata   It's definitely the nicest free AV software th...   Jan 20 2006, 03:33 PM
- - Mata   Kerio is not free anymore, so until someone has a ...   Apr 21 2006, 05:42 PM
- - Spacehappy   A few of the fee software tools i use and trust ar...   Apr 23 2006, 10:54 PM
- - stirbaby   all work and are good to kill nasty stuff   May 9 2006, 07:53 PM
- - Mata   Hiya Stirbaby. You've picked a good place to b...   May 9 2006, 11:36 PM
- - EvilSpoon   Another suggestion for an anti-virus software. I l...   Jan 10 2008, 11:50 PM
- - Mata   I'm going to tack this on to the end of the fi...   Jan 25 2008, 02:04 PM
- - michael123   Wonderfully helpful   Jul 31 2008, 10:34 AM
- - SPEAKERfortheLOST   Not to be a late poster here but... This is what ...   Aug 1 2008, 02:21 AM
- - Mata   I'd personally suggest against relying on the ...   Aug 1 2008, 12:17 PM
- - SPEAKERfortheLOST   Well the latest incarnation of the firewall has be...   Aug 2 2008, 02:52 AM
- - Mata   The ZoneAlarm wall was fixed in no time, if it...   Aug 5 2008, 12:15 PM
- - SPEAKERfortheLOST   Well, the fix that was applied actually opened a n...   Aug 5 2008, 05:42 PM
- - Poppa Moo   I would avoid AVG as the new (ish) version 8 is as...   Jan 9 2009, 10:58 PM
- - BruceSmith   Hi, I have a desktop computer with a following con...   Nov 20 2009, 05:00 AM
- - Miss-Smiley   Thanks Mata for that valuable advise!   Dec 1 2009, 12:19 AM
- - Mata   As an update to this list, I've been hearing g...   Dec 2 2009, 01:32 PM

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