Readers' Forum - December 2004

by Rob Zorn
from the December 2004 Newsletter

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "Forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

Mary writes: Hi A couple of weeks ago Spyware Stormer installed itself on my computer. I haven't gone on to register my name etc yet, but wonder if it is kosher, and if I don't want it HOW TO I GET IT OFF??? I am pretty new to all this. Thank you, Mary

Hi Mary, I would avoid this particular program, especially if you say it installed itself on your computer. I did a quick Google search and found a review page where 74% of respondents rated it as an undesirable program. I haven't experienced it myself, but many said it seemed to be a sham and actually contained spyware. You can read the page yourself at http://www.download.com/3302-8022_4-10297449.html?pn=1&fb=0.

If it is already installed, you should be able to remove it. The first method would be to look for it in your Programs list (by clicking Start and then Programs. Sometimes there will be an uninstall feature in the Programs menu. If not, you can go to your Control Panel (Start/Settings/Control Panel, or Start/Control Panel if you have XP) and then click on Add/Remove Programs. Select it in the list of programs and click the Remove button.

If that doesn't quite answer your query, let me know and give me whatever other information you can and I'll see if I can investigate it further.

Ivan writes: I have on my list of XP programmes one called Gator. Not sure what it is or does but would like rid of it. When I press Change/Remove I get a message saying Wise Uninstall can't find programme "Uninstall.Log File". So how do I find it or what do I do next? I must also in my green days have downloaded Gain believing it was something to with keeping the computer at the correct time. I have since removed it, but got a message saying something like "This action might cause problems for this and other computers or users". Is this just a scare?. Even if the programmes are removed is it still a possibility that they are still operating and spying once downloaded ?

Hi Ivan, there's a lot here! First of all, Gain is just a later incarnation of Gator which is well-known spyware that does its best to resist removal. GAIN is an acronym for (Gator Advertiser Information Network). I wrote a little about these two in my article Along Came a Spyware back in June 2003. A quick search using the phrase "Uninstalling Gator" using Google provided lots of pages of instructions for its removal that were reasonably easy to follow. Most just suggested the the Add/Remove Programs feature of the Control Panel that is dealt with in the answer to the question above. However, some went on to describing how you could edit your registry to remove both Gator and GAIN.

I don't recommend registry editing for anyone other than comfortable PC experts and geeks. A lot of damage could be done if you make a mistake.

The best option then, in my opinion, would be for you to download and use either (some recommend both) Spybot and Adaware. These programs should be able to locate and remove both Gator and Gain, and this might circumvent the problem you're having with the missing uninstall program. I am not sure whether this program really is missing or whether this is just part of its resistance to removal.

I suspect the second message troubling you is also just a scare, and I wouldn't let it stop me uninstalling the spyware. But again, using Adaware or Spybot will probably get around this problem as well.

You can download Spybot straight from Actrix here: spybotsd13.exe.

You can download Adaware here: http://lavasoft.element5.com/software/adaware/.

Ivan also asks: Is it best practice to disconnect the modem when not using the computer to avoid out of in use hours spyware and should this be recommended by all experts?

If you mean is it advisable to pull the modem plug out of the back of your computer when it's not in online? I certainly think so, but only if you suspect you might have a rogue dialler on your machine. Of course, when your machine is switched off, the modem will be unable to dial out or do anything as it won't have a power source, for a start.

When you're working on your computer, but it's not online, a rogue dialler could dial up without your knowledge, but the best thing you could do in this regard is use the anti-spyware programs listed above, and keep them updated. These will detect and usually remove the rogue dialler. More information about these can be found in my article Another Day, Another Dialler.