about:blank virus

Viruses – physical and technical

I wanted to blog about writing again today but I was almost unable to do anything online at all… in fact, my computer refused to boot up this morning. It took three attempts – two force shut-downs, three reboots with system scans and one final automatic system restore in order to get my computer going.

Here’s what’s been going on –

The night before last, a bunch of pop-ups took over my screen. They were all the same – blank web pages with “about:blank” in the address bar. Apparently, “about-blank” is a virus, adware, spyware or other hijacking program that somehow weaseled it’s way into my system. Even when I was off-line, the popups would pop up. Tens of them at first, then what seemed like hundreds.

I disconnected from the internet – shut down the wi-fi – and did all the scans I could think to do to rid my system of whatever bugs it had. Nothing seemed to work.

Yesterday, I downloaded some anti-spyware programs from the web – and yes, I was concerned that some of them might actually feed the virus rather than destroy it. I downloaded StopZilla, AdwareAway and Spyware Terminator (I hear Spyware Blaster is a good one to run, too). I ran all of those plus McAfee, Spybot and Adaware. Each program deleted something it called a “high” or “critical” threat. Done. I thought.

Then I had to take my cat to the vet – he’s been losing weight and there’s no explanation for it. He lost a pound at the last check up last week and another ounce and a half by yesterday. He has another appointment for next week to be weighed but was given one of his vaccinations yesterday. I took him home and he had a terrible reaction to it – never happened before and he’s now 11 years old. He was itchy. Itchy like you would not believe. Rolling, scratching, rippling his muscles looking like his skin was crawling. I rushed him back to the vet and he was given an antihistamine that should have knocked him out. It had the opposite affect. He started mewing and throwing up all over the place. And then he turned very aggressive. My sweet, affection kitty turned into the Looney Tunes version of the Tasmanian devil! He was panting and bolting through the house. His body got all puffed up like when a cat is ready to kill. And then he went after my smallest cat – Lady. He was biting and hitting her and she just fell to the floor in surrender. I had to fight to get him off of her. Finally, finally – about an hour later – he calmed and was my sweet, skittish boy again.

With all that, I didn’t even think about my computer. Or… about backing up my work. If you’re hearing the death march, I’m not surprised. The last time I backed up my work was about two weeks ago. If that.

This morning, the computer wouldn’t start and I thought for sure I’d lost everything. I don’t know to what point my system has been restored but it’s working now and I’m about to back up everything. Every. Thing. Then, I’m going to call the vet and tell him what happened to my cat last night. And THEN, I’m going to run all the scans I can run on my system and maybe even call in a pro.

“about:blank”. If you see it back up EVERYTHING and call someone who knows about computers. Don’t wait. Don’t try to fix it yourself. It’s sneaky. It hides in various files, renaming itself so your anti-virus or spyware detection programs cannot find it. It’s nasty and will make your life hell. I know this first hand.

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