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.

6 Responses to Viruses – physical and technical

  • What a horrible day. Hugs to you and take special care of yourself today.

    And now I am going to back up my work–especially the ms I just revised. I’ve been a bit lax about that. If I lost it….yikes.


  • Debbie, that’s frightening. I’m sorry you had such a miserable day. We have a guy who has worked miracles for us in the past. Of course during those days, we are without our computer. I backup every day, but a person can still lose hours of work. I rarely open documents that are attached to emails unless it’s something I’m expecting. Hope today is peaceful and productive for you.

  • Oh, Debbie, what a nightmare. I hope you haven’t lost any work. Thanks for the reminder about backing up your work. I try to back up my WIP regularly on my flash drive and periodically back up the whole laptop on an external hard drive.

    And your poor kitty (well, both of them) had an awful day, too. I hope the vet finds out what’s wrong with him soon.


  • Linda,
    Definitely back up your stuff. When the systems are working fine – which, truthfully, is much of the time – we don’t always think about what could happen. Yesterday morning was a true wake-up for me. I didn’t lose anything, thankfully, but easily could have. Back up, back up!!

    I used to know someone who worked those computer miracles. He’s no longer in the area so I think I’d have to call in the Geek Squad (and they’re not cheap, nor are they readily available). Fortunately, it seems I’ve rid the system of that bug. Blah. Hated it.. I have no idea how it got into my system, though. That’s the part I think that’s bothering me the most now. Where did it come from?

    Thankfully, I didn’t lose work. Oh, but the fear of that was tremendous! You do things the right way – backing up regularly and on TWO separate backup drives. I’m going to take my cues from you.
    As for my babies, Lady recovered very well, she and Ansel were rubbing against each other yesterday. All seems forgiven. Ansel still needs to be diagnosed. Poor baby is getting thinner and thinner – he’s eating, playing, and doing all the things a cat is supposed to do, and yet he keeps losing weight. It’s like he knows we’re going away soon and wants us to stay home. 🙁


  • OMG! What an ordeal! Just one of those would have been awful enough. And then there’s Ansel. So, he’s all back to normal now, except for that weight loss?

  • Rhonda,
    Ansel. His reaction to the antihistamine was like a bad trip. It lasted somewhere around an hour and then he was back to normal. He’s due for two more shots – annual vaccines – and he’s supposed to get them at the next visit on Tuesday. I’m not sure I want to put him through it. And yet… I do volunteer at a shelter. Chances are high that I could bring something home that he’d be unable to fight without his shots. I’m torn. I’ll discuss it with the vet next week and decide.

    Meanwhile, yes. He’s back to normal now except for the weight loss and that’s becoming a major issue. He’s all bones. Even his little head is bony. It doesn’t make sense. He eats regularly and… well… it just doesn’t make sense. He seems happy and is active, so that’s a great sign – and his blood work was normal to that’s great too. Tuesday. When that day comes, we’ll hold our breath and weigh him again…


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