--by Mike Adams with Tara Adams
The internet is a great resource for finding deals and discounts for anyone operating on a budget. Comparison shopping, searching for discount codes and using reliable sites for cheap buys are all time-tested strategies that work for thrifty consumers. However, discount buyers should be wary. You could easily wind up on the wrong end of a malware infection, and that could cost you hundreds more than you saved.
Several months ago, my wife called me at work in panic. She said, “I'm afraid I just installed a virus on our computer.” Having recently installed a fresh OS, I became worried and asked what had happened. She explained that she was hunting for deals on groceries and household staples online, when she hesitantly installed an application for printing coupons. She had been worried about the idea of installing any unknown software, but decided that since this was a reputable coupon website, which was recommended by a popular housekeeping magazine, everything should be ok. Once installed, though, red flags went up for her. Something appeared to be wrong.
After spending several hours running various AV and malware scanners, I was able to make her system run smoothly again, but couldn’t eradicate the offending software. Within a few weeks, I had to completely wipe her hard drive and reinstall the Windows 7 Operating System. Had she been a paying client, this would have cost her hundreds of dollars—more than negating the savings she received from the coupons she was able to print.
A quick Google search revealed that in fact, several of the most prominent free coupon printing companies are considered spammers and are suspected of distributing network Trojans and other forms of malware via their coupon printing software.
Fast forward to last week, when a friend contacted me to ask if I'd have a look at her computer, which was extremely slow and unresponsive. She said, “booting up after a shutdown can take between six and ten minutes.” Immediately I suspected malware, and though an initial scan didn't show any infection, I did find half a dozen coupon printing software packages, numerous IE toolbars and and equal number of desktop toolbars. The system memory was tapped. I removed all of this “bloatware” and ran another scan with Malwarebytes. This time, I discovered an appalling 392 infected files. In my time as an IT professional, I have never yet encountered a personal computer more compromised.
Ten hours and six scans later, using various scanning tools, I'm prepared to return my friend's computer, accompanied with a strong suggestion that she immediately back-up all of her important files and data, so when she has to reinstall the Windows 7 Operating System, she won't lose everything. If I weren’t doing a favor for a friend, this debacle would already have cost her $650, the possible cost of rebuilding her operating system would add to that. It would take a lot of savings on laundry soap, canned corn and shampoo to approach a break-even point on this particular couponing adventure, and the printing software itself is, by necessity, now gone.
So, my advice? Before you install that money-saving coupon software, ask yourself: how much you can you really save, and will it offset the cost of losing everything or hiring an IT geek like me to fix your computer?
Click here for the technical post describing how I fixed this computer
Computer Maintenance & Windows Support - http://mladams.com