View Full Version : Malicious Spyware/Adware?

2011-10-28, 04:24 PM
I recently posted in the inappropriate Ad section my concern for what I thought was the Website.

However, I noticed that a PM I got said that all the links I've been getting while on GITP was actually a problem with my PC, probably a result of downloading something recently.

I downloaded MSN Messenger, and then that's what seemed to change my default browser to Bing.

Should I be concerned? I"m running Norton anti-spyware right now.

2011-10-28, 04:48 PM
Guess I should have posted here instead of continuing the PM exchange.

Short answer, yes you should be concerned, but probably not much.

Longer answer:
You're dealing with a kind of malware called adware, which forcefully shows ads to the victim with no compensation of any sort. To the best of my knowledge, most adware just shows the ads and doesn't do anything else. In that case, it's a nuisance but nothing actively harmful. Some varieties of adware may also harvest information from your computer and report it somewhere, however, which would be a much more serious problem with the possibility of identity theft if passwords and similar information is among what gets harvested.

I would be surprised if MSN Messenger is directly responsible, but it could be something related.

I haven't done much research on the subject recently, but my potentially outdated information is that Norton is focused much more on the "take over and trash your entire computer" kind of virus threats, and doesn't have a particularly good reputation in any case, so I wouldn't be surprised if it fails to find your adware.

There are two major well known and highly reputable free anti-malware programs I know of that are specifically focused on adware. They are Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/) and Ad-Aware (http://www.lavasoft.com/). These have, in fact, become so well known that some enterprising scammers have made malware specifically designed to appear as if it were one of these programs, which is part of why I'm giving direct links to the official web sites for the real programs. Both of these programs have sizable articles on Wikipedia if you want more information before trusting free downloads recommended on the Internet, and I'm sure many more Playgrounders would back me up on recommending them. I would be very surprised if your adware avoids detection by both of these tools.

2011-10-29, 12:35 AM
The Bing thing doesn't seem out of place. I do believe MSN asks you if it can do that somewhere on the installation... probably very quietly. Sometimes you have to get to advanced options to disable things like that... but Bing IS the homepage MSN would want you to visit. That's not... entirely malicious. Not adware/spyware, anyways.

2011-10-29, 08:14 AM
Yeah, changing the default browser is probably an option you could have unchecked in MSN Messenger setup but didn't notice. You can change it back easily enough, and it's really kind of harmless. It's the random words on web sites you visit being turned into text ad links that's a sign of adware.

2011-10-29, 08:49 AM
Spybot search and destroy is a pretty effective free bit of software to block that kind of garbage. It doesnt always get caught by antivirus software. I used to have this happen to me every now and then. The most annoying was im a fanfic reader and id get an adware that made random words on the page turn into links.

2011-10-29, 12:33 PM
I ran ad-aware, got rid of some stuff it told me to and restarted the computer. There are still random links. :/

2011-10-30, 11:38 AM
Have you tried Spybot Search and Destroy too? No single anti-malware program is perfect, but what one misses another might catch.

2011-10-30, 04:17 PM
I have to read my licensing agreemen for my PC first, according to Spy Search And Destroy.

2011-10-31, 12:20 AM
After the links continued... did you try re-scanning? Some things like that could be more malware than simple adware. They tend to write themselves on system restore. So if you scan, then restart and the things are back... scan again. If they're back AGAIN, you may have a more... interesting problem. You'll need to disable system restore for a while for that kind of thing.

At any rate... you should run spybot. I don't think, unless they changed it or I'm recalling incorrectly, that they want you to see the license agreement on your PC, but rather the programs. Mainly so that you're aware that by deleting the adware you may be forfeiting use of some programs that come with adware.