Reminiscing with WinME and Malware

I’m doing a little cleanup work on a computer for a relative-who-shall-remain-nameless and I’d apparently forgotten just how incredibly crappy Windows Millenium Edition was. Insecure, unstable, and just cheap looking. Now, in defense of Microsoft and to prove that I’m not your typical Linux lover/M$ hater, I will say that back in the day, a computer-savvy person could make WinME quite a stable and usable OS. If my PC at home wasn’t down, I’d pull a screenshot off the hard drive for you as proof. I once kept a custom-built PC running WinME on 64MB of RAM up and running for about eight days I think it was without nary an error or crash. It took effort though, that’s for sure. Always watching what I was downloading/installing, not trying to do more than one thing at a time, and using Mozilla Phoenix all contributed to the stability of that system.

I don’t miss those days a bit. At any given moment, my WinXP system at work has eight or 10 windows open, a few other programs running in the system tray, and gobs and gobs of freeware utilities installed that I use once every blue moon.

Anyhow, back to the point – WinME. This PC is crawling with malware. I just installed AdAware and Spybot and their most recent definition updates.

AdAware SE 1.06

I always select “Use custom scanning options” and then begin the scan. Custom options by default does a “Deep-scan registry” which almost always uncovers something that the normal options don’t.
106 Critical Objects & 16 Negligible Objects
It’s important to note that AdAware’s progress bar froze at approximately 99.9% when trying to remove said objects. I realized System Restore was turned on, so I turned it off, rebooted, and then began my AdAware scan again. This time, 107 objects were found – I managed to pickup another one without even being connected to the net. Sweet! But again, the removal froze at what apppeared to be the 99.9% completed stage. At this point, I decided to try Spybot and then come back to AdAware once that was finished.

Spybot Search&Destroy 1.4

First of all – Spybot’s scanning engine is dramatically slower than AdAware. Spybot took almost twice as long to scan as AdAware. However, in the end, it was a good thing.
153 problems found
Unusually for Spybot, it was able to remedy all of those problems without a reboot and rescan. This may actually be the first time that’s ever happened in my many years of using Spybot S&D.

AdAware – Part Two

Well, after Spybot’s removal of 153 problems, I didn’t expect much when I scanned again with AdAware. Boy, was I ever wrong: 94 Critical objects still! AdAware was able to successully clean them this time. Guess there was just one item it kept tripping over that Spybot took care of.

Hijack This v1.99.1

I really, really like Hijack This. For someone as technically motivated as myself, it’s just a GREAT tool. I removed a few Browser Helper Objects (BHO) that were not really malware, but that I didn’t care for and rebooted again.

Final Scans

One last round with each program turned up zilch. I consider this a “W” in the column of Wins and Losses for The Good Guys.

Justin’s Final Thought

I’m betting there’s a group of people out there making darn good money doing this sort of thing for a living. I know for a fact that if my PC was acting bizarre and I didn’t know what to do myself, I’d gladly pay someone a reasonable fee ($25-50?) to perform such work. If the tech is willing to travel to homes or businesses, they wouldn’t have the expense of operating a brick-and-mortar store and could probably actually charge more since they’re making house-calls. Of course, it’s usually pretty important to me to have a fast net connection and a USB drive available on a secondary PC, so I think I could be much more productive in a brick-and-mortar shop for this type of work. Just thinking outloud – if anyone steals my idea though, I expect commission… ;)