Installing Safeguards to Prevent Future Infestations
Once you get the system repaired I would recommend taking the time to install some safeguards to minimize the chances of this happening to you again. For starters, always make sure that your anti-virus definitions are up to date. This is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to protect your PC.
I would also recommend installing a personal firewall on your system. Firewalls will alert you to both the inbound and outbound activity on your network and will also allow you to control exactly what type of traffic is allowed to pass through to your machine. Many firewalls offer very detailed logs that record and warn you of any suspicious activity. Keep an eye out for any programs you do not recognize trying to send data out of your system to the Internet. ZoneAlarm is a great firewall and is offered in a free version.
A good adware and spyware scanner would be valuable in this situation as well. One of the best programs I've come across in the last few years for dealing with these types of threats comes from LavaSoft and is appropriately named Ad-Aware.
Ad-Aware performs a comprehensive scan of your memory, registry, and hard drive looking for known data mining, aggressive advertising, and tracking components. It's a small download, is very simple to use, and best of all, is completely free. You can download freeware version online.
Another good spyware removal utility is called SwatIT. Like Ad-Aware, SwatIT is a completely free program that scans your computer for Trojans, Worms, Bots, and other Hacker programs. SwatIT can detect and remove over 4,000 different Trojan programs plus variants. It doesn't work on adware, though, so you should install both applications on your system. You can download this program online, too.
One of the ways you can come into contact with these malicious programs is through those annoying popup windows. These windows can sometimes redirect you to less than scrupulous sites that covertly download malevolent applications onto your system. One of the best ways to thwart popup windows is by using a popup block. Fortunately, there's another free utility available called Stop-The-Pop designed just for this purpose.
Stop-the-Pop will also recognize and kill hostile activeX controls from companies known to develop spyware or adware. Gator, GAIN, C2, Comet Systems, Cydoor, and Marketscore are all on Stop-the-Pop-Up's black list. The banner ads in ICQ Pro and MSN Messenger 4.6-5.x are also removed.
If you're willing to shell out a few bucks, you can purchase a suite that handles all of these preventative measures for you, including setting up a personal firewall, anti-virus protection, popup elimination, and more. One of the best available suites is Norton's Internet Security 2004, which can be purchased for around $70.
One last utility you might want to consider installing is the Browser Hijack Blaster. This utility runs silently in the background and only springs into action when an attempt is made to modify the IE Homepage, IE Default Page, IE Search Page, or Browser Helper Objects (BHO). Whenever one of these items is changed (or added), you are immediately provided with information on the item, along with the option to keep the change or revert to your previous settings.
While these tools (and others like them) are very effective at protecting your PCs, there is only so much they can do, and they work most effectively when used in conjunction with a bit of common sense. Remember, as helpful as they are, nothing will ever be 100 percent effective. I hope these tips and recommendations help.