Sunday, October 5, 2008

Risky Multimedia

Just last week I was called to a family computer that was practically in-operational.
Here is what I can tell about the situation:
  • Mom and dad use their work computers for email, dad is the "administrator" of the home computer. 3 sons (12, 14 and 16) use the computer for homework(?) and web browsing.
  • All 4 user accounts on the machine have administrator privileges, the Windows default.
  • The two younger sons download (free!) music with peer-to-peer file sharing applications like BitComet and Limewire.
  • The oldest son is relatively intensely into video editing; I found quite a few video clips on the computer.
  • Dad indicates that there is some emotional investment (my words) in the music and video files; re-installing Windows (the cheap way) was only a last option.
  • The anti virus application had not been kept up-to-date and there was no reputable malware scanner/remover installed.
  • The Windows firewall was disabled.
  • It took many hours intense work, some research on the Internet, 9 (NINE) scans with several different virus and spyware scanners and a bundle of tricks to remove a total of 2412 instances or traces of malicious software to get this machine to work again without losing any user files.
  • Many of the trojan horse programs were of the worst kind currently around including three rootkits.
By now you might be thinking "Why is he telling me all this?" Well, the answer is quite simple. During the removal process I realized that some codecs were virus infected. It appeared that the horrific state of this computer was not so much caused by where the sons had surfed to on the Internet but mostly by what they had downloaded, music and codecs!

Now I have set the stage for what I want to convey here: Multimedia lovers beware! Way too many fake, falsified or outright dangerous codecs are out there! If some not too well known website demands to download THEIR player and codec the alarm bells should go off before you click on "Download now". In short, do your homework!

Here is a link to an article on Lavasoft's company blog explaining codecs and describing the potential risks.

For those of you who like to use the multimedia features of their computer I highly recommend to work through this article, it might well "save" your computer.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog.

Thank you in advance.