I don’t know about you but as to the vast majority of my family and friends I “do something with computers” I get called upon to explain / fix / update all sorts of device, hardware, software and applications. Whilst this can be good for the ego and does give an interesting insight into how consumers use PC’s it can suck up an inordinate amount of time and so I try to avoid it or at least only fix common issues.
Just recently I have been asked to look at a number of people’s PC’s where they were getting homepage popups or the homepage was being redirected and I found some very scary things going on. Looking into these systems they were all running large amounts of adware / spyware / malware / hijacking programs, in the worst cases thousands of them. These normally didn’t do much damage other than snooping on peoples activities and slowing the system down (dramatically in some cases). The latest Homepage Hijacking programs however are really annoying because they always redirect the homepage and the search to some strange URL. The worst of these programs are incredibly sophisticated too; they spoof their URL with an innocent URL, encrypt their own URL so you cannot find it, update the start, homepage and search fields in the registry and then load a program which runs continuously updating the registry entry’s before locking the user out of the registry. It took me the best part of a day to unscramble that lot!
Anyway the lesson I learnt was to run a spyware / adware checking program and delete all adware and in the case of hijacking programs to use an anti hijack program. The sophistication of some of the highjack programs was such that the anti hijack programs which were suitable for end users did not get rid of the worst hijackers and I had to use registry editors such as Hijackthis which I would not recommend for untrained use.
The bottom line is that these Hijack programs are very annoying to the users and very difficult to get rid of. I cannot believe that they are legal, after all is someone came uninvited into your house without your knowledge and turned the place over leaving hours of work to clean things up I am sure that you could sue them.
The answer clearly is to make sure that the programs don’t get loaded in the first place. Windows XP SP2 (which I am running on my machine) has a considerable amount of support for popup and spyware blocking. I haven’t managed to test it with the really virulent hijacking programs because I am not sure where they came from so cannot try to reload them from an XP SP2 system. That’s how smart these things are.
So what have your experience of Hijacking been and have you any good tips? Does XP SP2 fix the problem or are you finding hijacking getting through? Finally is there anything going on to sue these hijackers? I would certainly join any lawsuit; they are one of the most unpleasant viruses I have come across in a long time.