The writer at PCWorld was asked to take a look at a computer that was running sluggishly and experiencing odd behavior. He discovered two things-that its anti-virus program was out of date and Windows Updates had been turned off. The result? A severe malware infestation:
I got the machine patched and updated and ran an AV scan right after disconnecting it from the Internet. Thirty-two viruses came up in the form of Trojans, Rootkits and Spyware. After rebooting, the same pop ups and slow behavior continued. I ran the scan again, and only six incidents of malware showed up. Cleaned those and ran antispyware and picked up a few more. Even initiated a boot-time scan the next go around and picked up even more!
It seems that every time he rebooted the system new malware infestations showed up! Apparently some malware has become so smart that when its deleted it simply reinstalls itself automatically. Scary stuff. The writer eventually had to reinstall Windows XP to get rid of the bad stuff once and for all.
What makes this story even more troublesome is that the computer in question was part of a SOHO network. Many types of malware are network aware and eagerly spread to other computers it finds networked to the one it initially infects. This can wreak real havoc for business and organizations. The moral of the story?
Never let your anti-virus get out of date, and never completely turn off Windows Updates. If you don’t like them automatically downloading, set it to notify you when updates are available. Then you can go into Windows Updates and chose the ones you want to download. (Make sure to not skip over any labeled security updates unless it’s for a program you don’t use. For example, I ignore any updates for MS Access, MS Powerpoint, and Outlook because I don’t use them.) Most of the security updates patch critical security holes that let scammers infect you with their malware, so don’t ignore them!