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I Hate Computers

Well, I hate Windows and the internet, anyway.

I've wasted all day dealing with a computer catastrophe. I have no idea what's happened, but all of a sudden I've lost all of my saved incoming unanswered emails. Several thousand of them, including important business correspondence from agents, editors, interviewers, convention runners.

I have four different virus protection programs, two of them supposedly running constantly, and Ty just ran a complete scan two days ago. Despite which, somehow, I think I have some bloody virus. This morning when I logged onto AOL to check my email, all my saved emails were there. I read the new mail -- and my AOL is set to save every email I read unless I explicitly delete it -- and then, suddenly, my Saved Mail I've Read folder was empty, except for the sub-folders I'd set up (Business, Conventions, Personal Correspondence, Toy Soldiers, and such) to sort the mail so I can deal with it. Those were still there, along with all their contents. But about six hundred emails that I hadn't sorted yet were gone.

I spent hours running scans and virus checks, but two different systems found nothing but cookies. However, from time to time one of them warns me of a virus that it can't delete. Warns me in a pop-up. But when I try to follow its directions to get rid of the thing, well, they're not followable. (Normally I wouldn't be doing any of this stuff, but Wednesday is Ty's day off). And I'm getting strange glitches in the virus protection programs themselves.

Anyway, after four hours and two scans, I've deleted hundreds of cookies, but the pop-up is still warning me about something called "Mal Hifrm" which it doesn't know how to deal with.

Anyone know anything about this sucker?

Oh, and now my AOL "Mail I've Read" folder is empty. Not only the unsorted emails, but all of the sub-folders and sorted mails as well. So instead of six hundred emails, I have lost thousands.

That could almost be considered liberating, but damn it, some of those mails were important.

My "Sent Mail" files, with copies of outgoing emails, remain intact for the moment, but those may be next. Who the hell knows? I've been busily printing out hardcopy for my files.

Before anyone has a heart attack... I write with WordStar on a DOS computer that is completely separate from the Windows machine I use for email. It doesn't even have Windows, or any internet connection. So A DANCE WITH DRAGONS and my other work is safe.

This shit never happened when I used a typewriter.


( 134 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 15th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)

Apr. 16th, 2009 12:42 pm (UTC)
Daily backup!!!
I agree with the :(

But George I have one word for you:


Daily, even hourly if you need to... Instead of overly using anti-virus protection, concentrate your efforts on a decent e-mail backup solution. So when things go bad, you just hit restore and voilà!

Viruses and spyware are one thing, but backups are very, I repeat very important and you should look into that.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
Phew about ADWD. This is why I switched to Apple!
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, you'll just get WoW keyloggers there.

You're not safe from viruses and malware because Apple computers are somehow awesome. You're only more safe because they're not as popular. (not a slam on the computers themselves, just a truth about the sales numbers.)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - dethstryke - Apr. 16th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
the math... - josh_b_mcc - Apr. 16th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: the math... - flugel_horn - Apr. 17th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
lol - jonnyjbones3 - Apr. 16th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eain - Apr. 16th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunblade - Apr. 16th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Site your sources or check your facts - rgilbertson - Apr. 16th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - metaball - Apr. 16th, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
In fairness, WordStar on a DOS machine is barely a rung above a typewriter.

Sorry to hear about the computer woes, dude. Good luck recovering stuff.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
Try running a boot-time scan which can sometimes get the processes before they even start. And if you have a spyware program like spybot then run that. If you can't run a boot-time scan then log in in safe mode and run your virus checks. I also recommend running ccleaner to clean the registry.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
"This shit never happened when I used a typewriter."

Granted, but then again is having thousands of written letters piled around you a better way to handle your correspondence? :)

I'm sorry to hear about your email woes. Heavy email loads on any email system just seem to beg for bad things to happen. :(
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 16th, 2009 07:41 am (UTC)
And you're only a reader. I can't imagine losing that much work (well, I imagine he has backups, considering it's years of work XD). Now if that happened to me as an author...I'd definitely be considering the death thing XD
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
1. Some virus/malware acts as an anti virus and tries to get you to download crap. Make sure it's really your anti-virus giving you this warning.

2. Just because you emails don't appear in your email client's folders doesn't mean they are al gone. Try to find out where it saves the files that contain your emails. It might be possible to import them back in or something.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
Have you tried accessing it through AOL Webmail (starting Firefox or some such and logging into AOL from there) rather than directly through AOL?
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
Computer virus
Here is the thing, if it's already on your system there is a good chance it can compromise your virus scanners as well as the operating system. I am surprised at the destruction of your email since this tipped you off to the fact that you were infected, and they would much rather use your machine to listen for CC numbers passwords and the odd DDOS attack or two. My advice is to boot off of a livecd and scan your drive, if you have the OS running while trying to fix the issue there is all sorts of places a virus can hide. My typical method of cleaning it is to run avast from a known good version of windows with the suspect drive slaved.

That or run a virus scan from a website rather than from one that is installed. For instance from this site.


I am a professional system administrator and if you need any assistance free of charge please do not hesitate to call 214 690 3020, it is the least I could do to repay the hours of enjoyment I have gotten from your writing.

(ps I am not a fan boy, nor do I want to call you up at 2 am to harass you about dance, I just want to help)

James Hendrickson
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Computer virus
Hey James, you probably don't want to just post your phone number in the open like that. I realize that with email problems you may not think it the best course to email it to him, but posting it in the open in the same breadth as claiming to have a job known to pay reasonably decently does make you a bit of a target for would be social engineers looking to con you.
Re: Computer virus - galvador - Apr. 16th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
You should only have one Anti-Virus running at a time. They will conflict with each other.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
When my regular virus checker and spybot didn't work, my IT person suggested using something called SuperAntiSpyware and it found the virus. It's got a silly name but it does seem to work.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
A Possible Solution
That's awful >.>
That virus (mal hifrm-3 file) enters your computer through websites and/or email (maybe spam)
I found a place were they can help you with that virus (I hope they do)

I really hope this link may help you
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
Got to say i'm with Ebenstone on this one. "Get a Mac" is a common phrase I use when people complain about loosing work, or having something ruined from version to version. Been using a mac for many years for my writing and the only way I lose something is if I accidently save over it with another file that I named the same thing. (Did that once.. usually all it takes).

Automatic saves are win.
Apr. 16th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry...
As if PCs do not auto-save documentation...

Apples are overpriced, lesser machines which run on a MUCH less popular OS. Because of this, hackers don't even bother writing malware for Apples. It simply is not worth their time.

More power to those who want to spend 50% or more above a comparably performing PC in exchange for a pretty case.
(no subject) - kigaomoi - Apr. 16th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Simply "No." - flugel_horn - Apr. 17th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
It's possible it's not a virus. I don't know what program you use for your e-mails, but in my office we use Outlook and we used Outlook Express. The program was made by chimps, evil chimps who hate people and progress. Anyway, once in a while the program decided to ruin your day and erased all the e-mails for no good reason. Usually it happened to people with tons of saved e-mails. It seems that the program couldn't handle a big number of e-mails. That might be your case too. Like I said, I don't know what program for e-mails you use, but I recommend googling for "NAME OF PROGRAM e-mail recovery" or "data recovery" or things like that. I know there was a free program for recovering e-mails from Outlook Express and from regular Outlook. Download that one, run it and see if it can recover anything.
Apr. 16th, 2009 06:24 am (UTC)
Actually, the mail program linked to Firefox does that too. I know because we've lost 2 Go (which seems to be the limit) of mails last summer. We solved the problem with a server dedicated to IMAP, but it slows down considerably the mails.

I should say that chances are high that either:
-you don't have a virus and it was one of your program viruses that looked like this - this is a possibility, albeit a tiny one
-your AOL messagery ran a program it found in one of your mail - for that, it's best to switch to POP3 and save your mails on your computer - and make regular saves of them elsewhere on your computer, just to be sure. So that no malovolent virus would be launched because a stupid program ran it. Again, that's only a possibility, but I see it as most likely, since it happened just when you read your mails - and I don't think you'd go to sites or download anything that would lead you to have a virus.

Also, I remember how you said that you used an old computer to write, which seems safer after all. ^^
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of viruses and malware that are really, really tricky to get rid of. You might even think that you've killed it, but it'll come back at reboot (or spontaneously, thanks to some nefarious magic). Even good antivirus and anti-spyware programs can fail.

But there's one program called Malwarebytes that just kills the stuff no matter how it tries to hide. It's got the ferocity of The Mountain That Rides, but it's far more user friendly. (And it's free!)

Download it at malwarebytes.org (it should be a snap to install), run it, have it hunt down and kill whatever. Then reboot, do it again, and -- for good measure -- repeat once more. If your computer is still acting screwy, then call a priest in for an exorcism, because you sure as hell don't have a virus.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
I 'googled' it, and this is what I came up with (not even sure if it'll help).


MAL_HIFRM-3 is the Trend Micro heuristic detection for suspicious files that manifest similar behavior and characteristics as the following malware:

If your Trend Micro product detects a file under this detection name, do not execute the file. Delete it immediately especially if it came from an untrusted or an unknown source (e.g., a Web site of doubtful nature). However, if you have reason to believe that the detected file is non-malicious, you can submit a sample for analysis. Detailed analysis will be done on submitted samples, and corresponding removal instructions will be provided, if necessary.

Whoever found this must have given the option
to delete or quarantine...follow their advice or...

To submit to TrendMicro see the link below.
Apr. 15th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
Try ClamAV, it's free. And get NoScript to protect against repeat occurrences.

Or, if you can, switch to Ubuntu. I've had zero virus trouble since I did.
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
get a macbook...
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
Have you contacted AOL? It sounds like it could be a problem on their end.
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
Try Ubuntu as an OS and Graffiti as a mail server.
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Have we ruled out file corruption? And do you know if the messages are stored on the AOL servers (IMAP) or on your local drive (POP)?
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
I would pursue both of these suggestions. If you use a type of mail program that stores your messages on the server, then regardless of what's going on with your PC, once you get that fixed, the messages should be there.

And if you use a method that stores the messages on your local computer, if you have thousands of messages, the index files that keep that huge amount of data sorted are subject to corruption. (And few things upset your computer like a virus.) I have had this problem a few times over the years with Netscape mail clients. Without knowing your exact mail client I can't give specific advice, but the point is once you clear up the virus problem, you may be able to get at your messages again by deleting the corrupt index file (which will rebuild itself).

Best of luck!
(no subject) - goodsirjava - Apr. 15th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
the pop up with methods for 'removing the virus' may in actuality be the virus itself.. usually you can tell if there are small spelling /grammatical mistakes and other glitches in the pop up. i've had this happen to me before.
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
You should look into getting these two programs. They are both freeware, and the 'be all end all' of virus protection on the internet right now. Along with using Firefox as a browser, and being aware during my surfing, I haven't had an problems.

Firefox browser: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/

Avast! Antivirus: http://www.avast.com/
Malwarebytes: http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php

They are both updated constantly. Some of the commercial anti-virus programs don't deal with things like malware and spyware. So those things could be just chilling on your computer without you knowing about them. Also, alot of virus' tend to disable the ability of popular antivirus programs from fixing/finding them.

In a world where keyloggers can be hiding behind every click of the mouse, I have educated myself as best I can about these things. Keep in mind it might take HOURS for Avast! to run, especially if you do the thorough scan, which I highly recommend.

Sadly, though, I know knowing about AOL mail, since I've never used it. I tend to stick with Gmail. :p But I hope you get it all sorted out. Perhaps AOL might be able to recover the emails for you if you contact them?

Good luck, and I hope everything works out!
Apr. 15th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
But without the internet, how would your fans be able to harass you efficiently? ;)
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George R.R. Martin
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