The Ransomware that Took Out My Desktop

The Ransomware that invaded my desktop was called Zeus.

Trend Micro says, “Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.” To learn how Ransomware arrives on a computer, click the link in this paragraph and read Trend Micro’s post.

The Ransomware that invaded my desktop on February 12, 2017 popped up on the right screen through Firefox and my g-mail account.

The invasion took place in stages.

I use three browsers: Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox and two are often running at the same time since I use two screens with my desktop. The left screen is used for Google Chrome and the right screen for Firefox.

My first attempt was to restore my system to an earlier date but there was no early date. I think Zeus got rid of that option because that has never happened before. Restore has always worked to deal with similar problems, but not this time.

Zeus took over my right screen on Sunday and flashed a loud message that I had to obey or else. It was noisy and irritating. To get rid of it, I deleted the Firefox browser from my computer.

I thought I’d defeated the threat, but I was wrong.

Google Chrome kept working and Zeus didn’t appear again.  It wasn’t until late Monday morning on February 13 that I couldn’t access any of the files stored on the desktop’s hard drive. Then the desktop stopped working.

I now know that Symantec.com offers a free removal tool for Zeus. “Our free tool will check if your computer is infected by Gameover Zeus and remove the Trojan if it’s found.” In fact, most if not all computer security programs like Norton offer some protection from Ransomware.

Zeus isn’t the only Ransomware out there, so beware.

The security program I was using at the time of the Zeus attack was Bitdefender and it had been offering me Ransomware protection for several weeks at no additional cost, but every time I attempted to accept it, I found the process too time-consuming and confusing, so I didn’t follow through. If it had been a simple and easy process, that ransomware protection would have been active.

Anyway, don’t do what I did. After I deleted Firefox from my desktop, I used Google Chrome and continued to use both of my screens through that one browser. I never saw the Zeus pop-up Ransomware screen again, but Zeus was still there hidden away in my operating system eating it.

On Tuesday, a friend recommended that I take my desktop to R Computer that another combat vet he knew, who has trust issues, swore by.

The R Computer tech said that there is no 100-percent protection from a computer virus like the Zeus Ransomware. Some security programs are just better than others.

The R Computer tech struggled valiantly through the rest of the week to get rid of Zeus and recover the desktop’s operating system, programs, and files, but there was no easy fix because the hard drive was also dead.

The stress from the Zeus virus must have shortened the harddrive’s lifespan.

Nothing lasts forever and hard drives have lifespans too. To find out if there is an average lifespan for hard drives, I turned to LifeHacker.com . Life Hacker says, “Any hard drive in active use is essentially a ticking bomb. Let’s be honest: It’s not a matter of if a hard drive fails, it’s a matter of when, and how lucky you’ll get postponing that as long as possible. If you’re really lucky, it’ll be after you’ve upgraded to a new one. If you’re unlucky, it’ll be in a matter of months or years, and when it does die, we can only hope you’ve made sure to back up your computer before it happens.”

As the week slipped by without a computer and internet access, I felt lost, but adjusted and started to read more from real books and go out more often. I even went on a 3-mile solo walk, something I seldom do since I prefer walking with a friend or a group. It didn’t take long before I realized that the internet and social media is an addiction that destroys life in the real world outside of cyberspace.

Planning to spend more time away from the computer, I wondered if there was a 12-step program to help. If you are interested, I Googled “cyber addiction” and found ITAA, Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous that offers a 12-step program.

If it was only the internet and social media at stake, I might not be here writing this post, but I’m an author with an addiction for writing that I don’t want to get rid of, and my next book is going through final revisions before I send it off to an editor.  That’s why I bought the laptop last Friday that I’m now using.

I’m glad I’ve been backing up my files on a regular daily basis for more than a decade. 

My desktop is still in the shop. When it comes home, it will have a new solid-state hard drive (with a longer lifespan). and my programs and files will be on it ready for me to get started again.

I have two large 27-inch screens that have been sitting dark for a week, and the 15-inch screen on the new laptop is small in comparison. I admit it. The larger screens spoiled me.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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