I had a serious problem with my computer this week. Somebody is trying to hack my account.
I am an IT literate, I am teaching and holding IT seminars for school and even private tutorials but these are all basics. I’ve been in IT world for almost a decade now but this week was the worst experience I ever had.
Whenever I had virus threats, spyware, adware or worms and my anti-virus failed to resolve these issues, I simply format my PC and setup my hard disk drive and its done! I can start working again. But last Tuesday, Oct. 14, when I opened my PC, I noticed that something is wrong during the start up process as it’s very slow than usual. I thought it was just a registry issue, so I run my registry cleaner to fix it but it failed.
Let me give you an idea about your PC and what PC registry is…
Your PC has many parts, input & output devices (monitor, keyboard & mouse), processor, motherboard, plug-in devices, storage devices and accessories. These are hardware.
Hardware – Physical Parts of the Computer
Software are the programs which control and manages your computers operation and it has 2 types;
1. The Operating System (OS) which is either XP, Vista or linux. This OS controls and manages the operation of your hardware and application programs.
2. The Application Programs. These are office programs such as MS word, excel, powerpoint, drawing etc… in which you create and perform your tasks.
These programs are stored in a storage device.
Storage devices comes in different forms, the hard disk drive, CD-rom and USB drives. So when you install these programs in your PC, it is saved in the hard disk drive (HDD).
Once these data is saved, we call it FILES. There are 2 file types; the system files and the user files.
User files are those files which you created yourself. These maybe document files for your blog posts, research, letters or maybe drawing files you created in adobe photoshop, videos, and other files you created and saved in the My Document folder which you arranged according to different category. You can modify it or delete it anytime you wish. Deleted user files are thrown in the recycle bin and can still be restored as long as you never click ’empty recycle bin’
On the other hand, Systems files are those files which has something to do with your PC operation. you can find it in drive C, at program files and windows folder. These can’t be modified as this will affect your PC’s performance. Some files and folders are usually hidden by the system itself to prevent newbie users from modifying it.
Programs cannot be modified manually. It has its own updates and it will run and download updates depending on your preferences. When you want to get rid of a particular program because you want to acquire the space its is occupying, you never delete it manually but remove it using your control panel. Just go to you control panel folder and click add/remove program icon. It will show you all the programs installed in your PC. Just click it and it will be removed.
The programs that we installed in our computers has setting configurations which are stored in your PC Registry.
Programs has registry keys which controls the operation of your PC. Everytime you change your profile setting or change PC configurations, it is always saved at the PC registry. Have you experience installing a program but failed? or uninstall a program but unsuccessful as well? these unsuccessful installations left marks and traces in your registry file. Even when you removed virus and adwares, it also left its marks and trace in your registry. Over the years, especially when you failed or never defragment your PC and you continue to install and uninstall programs, the invalid registry keys and outdated files in your registry increases and these will flood the system causing it to slow down.
But don’t worry, these issues are usually resolved by using a registry cleaner. You can avail of a free online registry scan at reliable websites like Microsoft or you can google and read reviews of the best online registry scanner and cleaning software.
Knowing this, I fixed my PC using registry cleaner but this doesn’t resolve the problem…
In fact, as the day is progressing, my PC is becoming more and more sluggish and windows are popping and programs are automatically opening and closing. Dialog boxes are opening too and flooding my desktop.
I am running after my deadline so it really bothers me and I really need to fix it immediately or else, I’ll lost my clients and employers! Since my anti virus and registry cleaner does not fix the issue, I tried online full scan in at least 3 reliable sites, Microsoft, Kaspersky and Panda. But these process failed as well.
Now my last option is to format my hard disk. I checked and save all my files in my back up drive and detached it. Back up drives are also called slave disk. When you check your Bios setup, it will show your hdd as master and the rest as slave or secondary slaves. Back up drives that are attached to your pc can be seen once you click ‘my computer’ icon. It will appear as another drive; drive C for your existing drive (another drive if your hdd has a partition), drive D, drive E, drive F for your cdrom and so on…
What I did was I removed all the attached slave disk and started formatting and setup. After setup, I expect or anyone would expect that the virus is gone, well its the normal outcome at least. But in my case it’s not. I just used my PC for 2 hours but when I connect to the internet, the same thing happen. My start button was opening automatically and a lot of dialog box is appearing. I don’t know what’s the cause so I downloaded YM to ask for friends’ advice.
These friends are telling me the same assessment. Virus cannot stand formatting. No adware and spyware will survive formatting. To be sure, I reformat again and I did it 4 times! But to no avail, I have the same result. The thought of an external threat flashed my mind. My friends agreed with my assessment. ‘Maybe somebody is trying to hack you’ they told me. ‘It maybe possible because you are working and earning online, maybe that hacker want to steal your password to have access on your accounts’
Those thoughts made me check my accounts; paypal, odesk, emails etc… But it’s still safe for now at least. I went to my relative’s PC and changed all my passwords using their computers. If somebody is hacking me, using another IP address to change my passwords will be the best thing to do so he can’t track any changes. I spent 2 days researching and reading reviews for reliable firewall programs and latest virus threats. I purchased a new reliable anti virus for security measure and firewalled my PC. .
But the next horrifying event shocked me…
When I attached my back up drive to check my files, I almost fell in my chair… My files were all gone! My back up drive is empty. Free! My 50 gig files were nowhere to be found! I thought I’d die at that moment. The articles which are due the following day, My clients designs, web designs, ID pictures, ID designs…. 10 years files… All of the pics, family gatherings, videos of different events, my serials, installers…My daughter was so worried as she has so many files and researched reports in that drive. Those are all gone in a blink! I can’t believe it. Those were very important. It’s where I am earning a living.
But I don’t believe I lost those files in an instant. Formatting even takes hours to erase all its contents. How can a 50 gig files be erased in a blink?
I spent the whole day researching for file recovery. And with the help from reliable friends, especially to Mike, thank you Sparkman, you really rock! I was able to recover 80% of my files. Yes, 80%. Well that’s fine for me, documents, designs, images and videos are my priority. Recovery programs has options only for document, images, zip files and videos. so I was not able to recover my installers, but l was able to recover my serials so at least, I can still download it online.
Whew! That was a great lesson!
I felt 5 years has been added to my age. I was so tired but relieved. And to you, whoever you are who’s trying to hack me, sorry to disappoint you but YOU FAILED..
Yes, you may have succeeded to interrupt my activity but I am thankful, you know why, this made me more wiser and cautious. You taught me to learn more. Thanks, I learned a lot this week.
The lesson here is that we must be very cautious and protect our files. I started to burn my files in high quality CDs in duplicates and keep it in different categories. This way, I wont worry if the same thing happened again.
And the great thing is:
I learned that when you empty your recycle bin, or if you accidentally delete files in your flash or USB, drives, you can still recover it.
Now, I recovered the MP3s and videos from my old USB drive which was accidentally deleted by a client when he borrowed my USB drive 🙂 Thank you Hacker. This new knowledge is fun and worth the mess you caused me 🙂
So my dear readers, protect your files before the same thing happen to you. This is a very long post indeed but I had to write it down so I can warn you and at least give you an idea of what to do in case the same thing happen to you. Just ping me if you need some particular name of the programs I used as I dont want to display it here coz it would look like an advertisement.
Thanks for reading my novel 🙂