Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ye Gads!

You know, it's a lucky thing for many people that I am neither God nor even a powerful demigod. About two weeks ago my main computer was attacked by a trojan/virus, and it has wreaked havoc and ruination. Ticked me off, too, which is why it's good for those who write such things that I don't have the power to blast them out of existence in manner messy and painful.

Read and be forewarned...

For over a year, I used F-Secure, a fantastic antivirus program and firewall. One of the best I've ever known, truth be told. But it's only available as a download from the creators, at least in this country. My subscription was about to run out, so I was in Office Depot one day in late May and a salesperson says to me (as I ruminated in the software aisle), "You should try the Norton 360! It's on sale, and it's a great deal!"

Since I was in imminent need of AV protection, and the Norton 360 product seemed to have a lot of features—plus, hey, isn't it okay to trust Peter Norton??—I decided to purchase the product and install it. Installation went smoothly and the software seemed to work. It also had a firewall and automatic backup facilities... very slick and integrated.

After about a week, my computer started to slow down for no apparent reason. Then, the browser would seemingly open of its own accord, popping up to screens inviting me to search for great deals on a new car, or to find a soul mate, or to buy some sort of antivirus software that I had never heard of. I wouldn't even be accessing the Internet, and this would happen!

So, I ran a forced scan with Norton 360 and guess what? It found a virus! It also told me that it couldn't remove this virus, that I needed to contact the Norton mothership for help.

I contacted them and after being in queue for some time, managed to hook up with Amit. Amit required several explanations of the problem, but eventually he understood. And eventually he also told me that it was beyond his power to help me: I needed to be in touch with the Virus Removal Team!

He transferred me to the VRT (don't you love acronyms!?) and after being in queue again for some time, I managed to hook up with Pradesh. I explained.... once more in painful detail... the problem to Pradesh. After he repeated my sentences back to me a few times, the following dialogue took place:

Pradesh: Ah, Mr. Burton, we can remove that virus and get you going again!

Me: Wonderful! Let's get started.

Pradesh: Sure, Mr. Burton. All I need from you is your credit card number and...

Me: Excuse me?!? I just bought this less than two weeks ago and it's not working! I'm within my support period, correct?

Pradesh: Mr. Burton, I understand that you are upset, but do not worry, we can get rid of that virus for you and educate you on how not to acquire another one. But this is a paid consultation.

Me: And how much will it cost?

Pradesh: Mr. Burton, it will be $99.95 for me to take control of your computer, clean out the virus and educate you on how to avoid this in the future.

Me: But I just bought and installed your product. I have not had a virus or trojan to get into my system for over a year and within two weeks of installing Norton 360 my life is hell! And you are telling me, since your software FAILED to protect me sufficiently, you have to charge me $99.95 to remove the virus that YOUR software allowed to infect the computer in the first place?? That's *&%$@#@!!

Pradesh: Mr. Burton, I understand you are upset. But this is the best I can offer you.

Me: Well, Mr. Pradesh, the best I can offer you is to say NO and tell everyone I know about how lousy this software is, and how much like an old-time protection racket your virus removal service is.

The manager of the Office Depot, Bobby, was very nice. When I went in and told him what happened, he agreed with me that it was
*&%$@#@ for them to want to charge me like that and he promptly refunded my money, while recommending a better product. He also told me that if I had asked HIM instead of the sales clerk on the floor that day, he would have told me not to waste my money on Norton because it was worthless and primarily just window-dressing.

BUT! Although that part of the story is now happier, the agony continued. Remember I said that the Norton 360 was supposed to be backing things up for me? Well, it did back up... a few things. It did NOT successfully back up the .PST files from Outlook which I told it to back up. It did NOT back up my postage records from my shipping software. I managed to lose about a months worth of recent email and about 30% of my address book. I have a BIG address book, so that's a lot of names and addresses. Luckily I had manually backed up some of my Outlook PSTs from before I bought the Norton 360, and was able to recover at least that data. But all my postage log, with names, dates, amounts spent on postage, etc., disappeared.

Sooooo... I am out of the cyber-ICU, but I'm still in Recovery. I have a new, better antivirus program, and am running Spyware Doctor as well as SpyBot S&D

I hope to have much less worry about such issues in the future, anyway, since I recently ordered an iMac from Apple, and it is supposed to arrive sometime on June 29. According to all the people I have talked to, the Mac has only a very few viruses that attack it... compared to the over 114,000 that are lusting to get into a Windows-based PC.

Now all I have to do is learn how to use a new type of computer, and buy a lot of replacement software in their Mac versions.