Antispyware Soft: A Case Study of Depravity

Apr 29, 2010 by

In the decade that I spent in the auto repair industry, I saw my fair share of corrupt and dishonest behavior both within the various companies I’d worked for, and in the business practices of other competing shops.  But, in all of my time in that field, I never witnessed anything so depraved and unscrupulous as the attempted scam that was pulled on me yesterday.  The main reason I am writing about it is that it was a highly frustrating ordeal and maybe I can save someone out there the aggravation of what I went through by sharing my experience.

Synopsis:

It began about 10 am yesterday.  I’d been sitting at the computer for about a half hour when Internet Explorer randomly opened to a page displaying links to various online gambling sites.  I found this bizarre, since I use Firefox almost exclusively and have it set as the default browser.  I closed IE and went about my business, only to have an antivirus program called Antispyware Soft pop up and begin scanning the C: drive for errors (see screenshot).

antispyware soft, virus, computer

Source: spyware-fix.net

I didn’t ever remember installing an antivirus program of that name, and since this laptop is only nine months old, I was pretty sure I never did.  I stopped the scan and closed the window – only to have it minimize to the system tray unable to be closed completely.  Upon ‘minimizing’, an alert appeared prompting me to upgrade this Antispyware Soft program to the full registered version.

I clicked the link, which led to a landing page with three products to choose from ranging from $49.99 to $69.99.  About this time, I starting getting an alert from Windows that this file or that was corrupted and an alert would also pop up in the lower right hand corner indicating a critically dangerous virus infection.  All would indicate that my computer had been infiltrated by a particularly nasty virus.

By now, the Antispyware Soft program had popped up again and had resumed it’s scan.  This time I let it go, and it returned results of dozens of corrupted files.  The program, like most antivirus software, was set up so that you had to purchase the full version in order to repair any problems.  I attempted to open up a couple of my other antivirus programs – but they wouldn’t open – instead an alert from Windows popped up stating the program couldn’t start due to some sort of corrupted file.

I tried to access the task manager by way of [CRTL]+[ALT]+[DELETE] – but that too was blocked by this virus.

I restarted the machine – no change in condition.  I attempted to open some of my Word and Excel files, only to have Windows instead offer the same pop up alert explaining that a corrupted file was preventing the programs from loading.

I quickly backed up all of my important files to a USB drive and called a local PC repair shop for advice.  The technician was very helpful – he implied that this particular virus was so embedded into my system that in his experience the best solution is to restore the computer to it’s original out-of-the-box settings.  He said that these types of viruses (called “Malware”) embed themselves into the system and even though some antivirus products will remove the majority of the problem, they have the ability to ‘respawn’ and more or less regenerate themselves.

Wonderful.

for some reason, Firefox was about the only program that was unaffected by this piece of malware.  I used it to Google “Antispyware Soft” to see what I could learn about this program.  When I did, I was hit with a bunch of sites describing the exact symptoms I’d been infected with.  Apparently this is somewhat of a common occurrence.   It turns out that Aintspyware Soft is the actual piece of Malware – it slips by the existing antivirus software assumingly under the guise of being an antivirus program itself, then ‘infects’ the system – essentially tricking Windows security system into thinking that certain files are corrupted, therefore preventing the opening of virtually every piece of software on the hard drive.  There is virually no way to close the Antispyware Soft ‘program’ since it’s not a program at all.  The scam is that you have to go to their landing page and buy the solution from them.

Assholes.

There is Hope (how I fixed it):

Luckily, a few of the sites I visited detailed a variety of solutions to the problem.  Through trial and error, I was able to piece-mail a fix together by using a variety of the tactics described in the sites.  The method I used to rid my laptop of this disaster is as follows:

  1. Restart your computer and boot up in ‘Safe Mode with Networking’.  You do this by repeatedly tapping the [F8] key before Windows starts until the menu opens.
  2. Open IE and go into the ‘Connections’ tab under Internet Options and click ‘LAN settings’.  Uncheck the box next to “Use a proxy server for your LAN” and hit [OK].  Then close IE.
  3. I tried several anti-malware programs, but the only one that worked was “Spybot – Search and Destroy”.  Download it here.*  Then install the software.
  4. Run Spybot and scan your whole system.  Then fix the problems if finds.
  5. Restart your computer in regular mode and log into Windows (like you normally would).  Spybot should finish its scan at this time.  This took about three hours on my 500 GB machine and that’s with 6 GB of RAM and a Core-2-Quad processor, so expect it to take a while.

That’s it!!  After that you should be all fixed up.

*Spybot is 100% freeware – however they do gladly accept donations.  I encourage you to donate if this program helped you out of your mess.  Donating to quality software producers is a great way to encourage them to continue to create good products, which also keeps the prices on the non-freeware programs reasonable. I am not affiliated with this program.

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Afterthoughts:

While this could have turned out a lot worse, as many viruses that infect PCs tend to do legitimate damage to files and hardware, I am still quite perturbed at the while ordeal.  Although I didn’t lose anything in terms of data, and I didn’t have to spend any money to fix it, it did cost me an entire day’s worth of productivity – not to mention the irritation and frustration at the whole thing.  This experience reminded me of one of the most fundamental aspects of business and life in terms of how you conduct yourself: You either have integrity, or you do not. There is no middle ground.

“I can’t shave in the dark.” –Anonymous

integrity business

Source: allposters.com

My time in the auto repair business taught me the value of trust in terms as far as business relationships.  Clients were

counting on me to be honest when it came to telling them what was wrong with their cars – and as time went on, I came to appreciate what a fragile thing that was.  This piece of malware infecting my system is the equivalent of someone going into my driveway and letting the air out of my tires, then charging me 50 bucks to come out to the house and air them back up again.

Not only did the creators of the Antispyware Soft virus cause me significant inconvenience, they’ve shown themselves to be some of the most despicable types of people around.  These are people whose idea of doing business is to artificially create demand for their ‘service’, then force the customer, i.e. victim, to pay money to get their machine running properly again.  Yes, they’re probably making money off of this, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror – and that to me is something you shouldn’t sell for any amount of money.

3 Comments

  1. Glad to see this post and know that others were as irritated with the Antispyware Soft ordeal as I was. I lost two hours of productivity today dealing with it and its impact on IE’s ability to display web pages. Grrrrrr.

  2. Katharina

    I’m actually having difficulties with Antispyware Soft as I type. I was on the internet for about 5 minutes before I got corrupted file alerts and fake Windows Security pop ups.

    Thank you for posting this as it’s helped me a great deal with fixing my problem.

  3. Hi Katharina,

    Thanks for the comment. I am glad I could help you out. Hopefully that piece of malware didn’t cause you too much inconvenience.

    Take Care

    MJ