Lessons Learned from a Computer Virus Attack and Goals Check-In

It seems you’re having some trouble.  In dealing with these changes.  Living with these changes.  Oh no, the world is a scary place…Get up, come on get down with the sickness.” ~ from “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed

This week, my laptop was heckled and hacked by a virus.  Here is the disturbing timeline:

  • It started Monday night as I was doing my usual computer multitasking while watching The Voice.  Woosh.  A flash of pop-up screens invaded, wiped out what I was working on and blacked out my desktop.  From a “security center,” they gave dire warnings of a series of errors that had and were occurring on my system and pretended to be scanning it.  Several more messages filled with poor English grammar and it was directing me to insert a credit card number to upgrade to a full version of software from a trial version I’d never downloaded.  System fail.
  • Tuesday night, I downloaded IT recommended malware software, ran it and assumed to have corrected the issue.  I then went about the task of restoring the programs and files that had been hidden in the attempt to hijack my machine.  I saw all my files were still accessible and again figured things were safe.
  • Internet Explorer was quite sluggish and providing website errors Wednesday night.  Also, some other settings I attempted to restore wouldn’t take.
  • Same IE performance on Thursday and a mysterious error from my AVG antivirus software saying it wasn’t running and couldn’t turn on, update itself or be uninstalled/reinstalled.  Hmm…
  • Friday delivered an internal wireless card error.  Again, a diagnostics fix failed.
  • Saturday, we took a trip to a computer doctor who backed up the files, wiped the system clean and began again.

Lessons Learned: 

  • The IT experts always say “back up your files.”  I shall scream it, BACK UP YOUR FILES REGULARLY.  There is a special sense of panic that grabs a writer’s heart when a computer hiccups.  I had a backup of my writing folder and print outs of most of my work, but it was months old.  My newest work and revisions on some pieces would have been toast.
  • Back up your work in multiple places.  The full back up I had was on an external hard drive.  I also had versions of a few recent items on a jump drive.  I’m going to now check out doing this on the cloud as well to be able to access from anywhere and in case of the failure of the other hardware back ups..
  • If something funky pops up on your screen, try to close it via task manager, then maybe the “X” in the corner.  Don’t try exit by clicking “close” or any other similar prompts.  Those are a trick and open up the door to whatever is doing the dastardly knocking.  If that fails, immediately shut down your system.  It might already be too late, but could stop some of the madness.
  • Make sure your security protection has a firewall and tools to find malware, viruses, etc.  I had a free version of AVG, which was virus protection only.
  • Whatever security system you have, be consistent with use.  While my software ran automatic updates, I’d turned off the auto scan and hadn’t done a full system scan in a bit–in part because it made my multitasking run sluggish when it scanned.  Look how that turned out for me.  😦
  • Consider using Firefox.  The computer fixer installed it on my system and said it is better than IE.  I’ll be reading up on it today.
  • Consider a Mac.  I’ve been a PC loyalist since the mid ’90s so I can’t believe I’m considering this move to what I’ve considered the dark side.  Part of my loyalty has been wanting a system that would be compatible in handling my work files.  I hear things have changed and that it could be a moot point now.  I will be researching this.  Also, my writer friends with Macs happily shared they don’t deal with viruses.  Grr…

ROW80 Goals Progress


  • 1,500 words of new fiction a week either on novel WIP or short stories.  601  words done.  The remaining time I’d carved out to work was eaten by dealing with computer issues.
  • Read at least one chapter a week of a craft book.  Done.
  • Read at least one chapter of a novel each week.  Read “Hunger Games” before the movie launch March 23.  Being computer-less gave me extra reading time.  I’m finally done with “Defensive Wounds” and will be starting “Hunger Games” tomorrow.  Counting until the Sunday after it opens, this gives me about 20 days.  Nineteen pages a day will get it done.  Now I need to scamper off and see about getting some advanced movie tickets.
  • Complete assignments each week for Plotting Via Motivation class (March 5-30, 2012) with Laurie Schnebly Campbell.  Pending start tomorrow.

Social Media

  • Blog three times a week.  Four done.
  • Read, comment and share at least 10 blogs a week.  Done.
  • Check Twitter and Facebook at least once daily.  Done via tablet.

Healthy Happy Living

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week.  Temporarily on hold as I mend.  Still hope to get clearance to try something low impact next week.
  • Finish my poncho project via crocheting one hour a week.  Not done.  Was working on computer madness during crochet time.
  • Enjoy watching one movie a week without multitasking.  Watching 12 Angry Men in a few hours.  I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years, so it will be cool to watch straight through.

Have a computer nightmare to share?  Are you a recent Mac transfer or long-time devotee?  How have your goals been this week?  Share away!  Also, be sure to check out the ROW80 updates of others via the blog hop.

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28 Responses to Lessons Learned from a Computer Virus Attack and Goals Check-In

  1. Computer issues are so devastating and time consuming, not to mention absolutely maddening! I cringe when something even remotely looks like there is a failure! I back up my writing on a thumb drive, in Dropbox, and whenever I make a change on my MS, I email it to myself. And, when a big chunk is done, I print it out.

    I hope your goals are met this week since you computer is up and running again. Thanks for sharing your story, Barbara!

    • Maddening is a great word for it, Diana. Just the thought and feeling that something and someone had run into my world and skewed my files, work, system made me twisty. Dropbox is what I’m going to start using also for backing up data. And I like your idea of emailing stuff to yourself as well.

  2. Sorry about your computer! Enjoy Laurie class- she’s a great teacher.

  3. Eeesh, computer viruses are the WORST! I worked in tech support a million years ago and I’ve seen it all, I think. There are numerous reasons I have been a Mac loyalist since then, and marked lack of viruses is one of the many! Dropbox is a great way to back up your data AND have it available no matter what, I highly recommend it. Glad you’ll be using it, hopefully it will keep you from any future heartache. Hope this week goes much more smoothly for you!

    • I hear you, Jessica. A colleague of mine was just showing me her Mac Book Pro yesterday. As I looked on, I saw it wasn’t so bad. 🙂 The syncing available between devices and other intuitive features were cool. As for my PC, I’m going to step up and get an even better security suite for it from the upgrade I just made. Dropbox is wonderful as well. .

  4. Debra Kristi says:

    Sorry to hear about your computer problem. Computer issues are no fun! I think I got the same virus, althought I didn’t click the link, but shut it down. It still made swiss cheese of my operating system and I am without currently. I actually enjoy going back to a simpler routine for now. Good luck with your goals!

    • Oh, Debra! How awful the virus from the depths of destruction hit you too. I know of a few others recently attacked. Nuts. It is a mini-nightmare to deal with. Good luck to you on getting it fixed and thanks for your support.

  5. Computer issues are THE worse!!! UGH! So frustrating and I so appreciate your tips and tricks from lessons learned. I’ve been considering switching to a Mac for awhile and it’ll likely be my next personal computer purchase.
    Installed Firefox and used it for awhile and started having issues with it spiking my CPU usage and slowing everything down. My tech guy said that Firefox can have memory leak issues so I switched over to Google Chrome (which looks/acts very similar to Firefor) and I am super pleased.
    Here’s to a MUCH better week ahead honey!!!

    • Thanks for the tech guy tip! I’m still kicking with Firefox right now, Natalie, but will keep an eye on performance. I used to always laugh at “Mac people” for buying into so much loyalty for one company, but kind of get it now in terms of the well thought out development and other tools. I’ll be heading into a store to do some hands-on playing and then keep it on my “wish list” for my next purchase as well.

  6. Currently, I have all of my files on a flashdrive. I’ve been meaning to find alternative methods for back-up…it’s pretty much a ticking time bomb – I try not to think about it lol I WILL get it figured soon, though!

    Thanks for the heads up, and here’s hoping this week goes much more smoothly!

    • I was doing some backup on flash drive too, Kate, and some on an external hard drive. Both of those I see now are not as great because they are still physical and could become corrupt or otherwise fail. Never mind how easy it is to lose a flash drive. So, I’m “on the cloud” now. 🙂

      • I’ve thought a lot about going “on the cloud.” I need to really get serious on this before something bad happens. My mind won’t even allow me to contemplate the horror of losing my flashdrive..

  7. Jenny Hansen says:

    Barbara, there is also a back-up in the Cloud option called Carbonite that you might consider. I’m soooo sorry you had to deal with that. I get super trooper cranky when my computer glitches. I’m so dependent on it.

    I hope next week goes better!

    • Oh yes, I was in shock about the laptop fail and almost rounding into cranky terror until the tech told me he could save my files. Carbonite. Thanks, Jenny. I’ll take a look at that option as well. I just love all you tech savvy folks who can lead the wayward (ha) to a better path. Left to our own devices…

  8. I feel your pain, Barbara. About a year ago I accidentally downloaded a nasty malware from a link my friend put on my Facebook Wall. Except it wasn’t exactly my friend who did it – his FB account was hijacked. Fortunately my computer-geek hubby was able to wrestle the beast out of my laptop, but it took him many hours, a lot of frustration and a whole load a profanity accompanying every mouse-click. It wasn’t pretty.

    I was lucky not to lose any files but I religiously backup onto three different drives and now I also have an extra laptop with all the same files. It’s a pain in the butt but at least I can rest assured that my files are protected. I am also considering either Cloud or another service – I will ask my geek-hubby which is the most user-friendly.

    Great job on your goals, despite the computer issues. Enjoy Hunger Games. I did 🙂

    • Yikes, Angela! That story makes me know a bit weary of FB and all the links people are sharing. Ditto for Twitter, but at least there some scams are pretty obvious. I think the biggest lesson for me is making sure to use a better form of software for protection and covering file backup in case of another hardware fail.

      Hunger Games is quite fascinating! 🙂

  9. Carrie says:

    Join the cloud….read my post here on backing up on dropbox…http://smartassromance.com/?p=1928 – it can save your entire manuscript! Glad you got rid of the virus Barbara, they’re nasty things….

  10. +1 for Dropbox! As soon as you save, you’re backed up. It’s great. As a former Mac user who switched to Windows, I can tell you Macs do get viruses, although not as commonly. Firefox can pick up malware too. If you have Windows 7, a good way to protect yourself is to have two user accounts – one with Admin access, and a standard user, which is what you would normally use. It will prevent most malware from installing. Good job getting stuff done despit the issues, and good luck this week!

    • Fascinating that you are a Mac user who switched to PC, Jennette. And thanks for the tip that Macs get viruses too. I’ve now heard that the issue of PCs getting more is due to owners being listed as Admin. I guess this allows the door to open more easily. Unfortunately, I don’t have Win 7.

  11. Ali Dent says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Barbara. I doing it right now. I’m really sorry you had so much trouble. I feel for you.

  12. Tia Bach says:

    Ugh. This happened to me last summer, and I was fortunate enough to save everything, but it was terrifying. Still, I’m bad about backing up (yes, slap me!). Thanks for the reminder. Too much of what we do can’t be recreated, so it’s important to have it.

    Best of luck with your goals now that the technology problem is solved. Although I’m amazed how much you accomplishe considering all you went through!

    • I hate that you experienced it too, Tia. The backing stuff up regularly is now tops for me. I was okay with losing some older stuff–worst case, I’d have to retype something. But the newer work, especially on the novel, had me heading towards panic.

      Thanks for the goals support!

  13. Pingback: On a Clear Path: ROW80 Goals Check-In | Barbara McDowell's Blog

  14. So sorry for your computer pain! Been there, done that about 6 weeks ago with my daughter’s computer. What a pain! I’ve been told not to hit the “X” or the “close” buttons just use task manager or do a hard turn off if necessary. (Ctrl-Alt-Del.)

    I love Macs but haven’t been able to buy a new one in several years. I may return b/c my daughter got one for graduation and I’m so envious. I can’t think of any occasion though when people will shower me with cash, so it’ll be a while. 🙂

    Good work on your goals. Glad to have you back digitally. 🙂

  15. I feel your pain! Glad to know you were able to get things right. My next laptop will be a Mac. Considering what I spent on repairs in the past three years, I could’ve bought one!

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