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True IT blooper #28: Bugged by a virus

And now for another episode of "Doctor Don, The Computer Doctor" on the "True IT Blooper" network. This week, Doctor Don is making a house call. His patient has a virus, and that makes him mad. "Mabel," he says to his client as the camera pulls in for a close-up, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

While he doesn't have his own TV show, Los Angeles-based computer consultant Don Sturgiss is known as The Computer Doctor. To help prevent needless suffering, he offered this cautionary tale of an IT mishap to SearchWindowsManageability.

On March 15, 2002, Doctor Don received a distress call. A distressed Windows user was on the line. Something terrible had happened when the Windows user was viewing his email. "He was attempting to delete a spam porn message, when suddenly his computer gave an error message and stopped working," Doctor Don recalled.

The Windows user was forced to reboot. The system would not come up. The backup boot drive no longer worked either. That's he placed the call to Doctor Don.

When Doctor Don arrived on the scene, he checked out the Windows user's computer. The situation was grim. All EXE, COM, SCR, BAT, etc, files had been deleted in all backups on both drives. "All that remained were some TXT, DOC and DOT files," Doctor Don said. "Twenty-five gigabytes of programs and data (and their multiple backups) had become about 1 GB of data backups. The EXEs, etc. were all gone." In short, the client had lost his

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WinMe operating system and all operational programs to a virus.

Then the Windows user revealed something that made Doctor Don grit his teeth. The user admitted that he had a new copy of ZoneLab's ZoneAlarm installed correctly and in use on his computer. However, he neglected to install an antivirus program.

Of course, Doctor Don had advised this fellow to install and constantly update an antivirus program. "As soon as I saw this, I immediately contacted almost all of my clients by phone," Doctor Don said. (He didn't call clients with antivirus software that he'd updated.) He warned them to check their antivirus and verify it had a date no later than yesterday's. "Do NOT use email until this has been checked," he warned.

To Doctor Don's horror, he discovered a client who had no protection on two computers and 4- year-old protection (McAfee 4.0.2) on two others desktops on his network. Another had only two out of five networked desktops protected. "I had told these clients several times to make sure their antivirus software was up to date," he said. It was only dumb luck that that "none of these networked systems caught that one nasty virus and didn't lose every computer on their network."

Back at the scene of the disaster, Doctor Don had a trick up his sleeve. He has developed a technique to backup all of a Win9x boot drive to backup bootable drive. "This system is tested as operational by killing the power, removing the normal boot drive and restarting," he explained. "A successful restart indicates the system is operational." In this case, the trick worked.

After saving the day for the virus victim, Doctor Don personally updated the negligent clients' antivirus software.

Then, as the scene faded and the music swelled, Doctor Don rode away into the LA sunset.


This was first published in May 2002

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