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Watch Out for Rogues

MikeWik's PC got infected with rogue malware. He asked the Antivirus & Security Software forum for help.

MikeWik's PC got infected with rogue malware. He asked the Antivirus & Security Software forum for help.

A rogue program tricks you into downloading, and buying, something you don't need. In general, rogues pretend to be demo versions of security or maintenance programs, and scare users with reports of dying hard drives or horrible infections. Their goal is to make you panic, so you will give them money.

The good news is that your hard drive really isn't dying. The bad news is that your PC really is infected. But what they're selling isn't the cure; it's the problem.

The screen grab below is of Windows Restore, the actual rogue that hit HikeWik's computer. It looks like a real maintenance utility. My thanks to BleepingComputer.com for allowing me to use this image.

So if a program you've never seen before suddenly pops up with a warning of horrible disaster, consider the possibility--no, the likelihood--that you're being had. Search the Internet for the exact words of the error message, in quotes, plus the word rogue, outside the quotes. For instance:

"Exception Processing Message 0x0000013" rogue

You're bound to find instructions for removing the problem.

If you don't find specific instructions, here are the basics: You need to kill any processes run by the rogue, then update and run one or more malware scanners.

And don't depend on your regular antivirus program. It's already missed the malware and may be compromised.

One way to kill running processes is to run Lawrence Abrams' RKill. It's free, portable, and simple.

Another way is to scan for malware from Safe Mode or, better yet, a live Linux environment. SuperAntivirus Portable is particularly suitable for Safe Mode because you don't have to install it or update it (although you do need to download it just before you use it). The AVG Rescue CD is one of many bootable Linux distributions that can find and destroy malware.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter.

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