My Victory Over the “System Check” Computer Virus

What do Blue Buffalo Dog Food and nasty computer viruses have to do with one another? Before today, I would have answered, “Nothing.” But from one of the dog food review sites flagged as “safe” by both McAfee and PC Tools pyWare Doctor, my computer picked up what is referred to as the “System Check” virus.

To its credit, McAfee did start throwing up alerts as the virus was downloading itself to my system, quarantining some files as they sought to take up residence on my hard drive. Unfortunately, the anti-virus software missed a few other files, causing me to be greeted with one fake message after another attempting to convince me that my machine was at imminent risk of catastrophic system failure.

Having become jaded by make-believe (or perhaps real?) African Kings offering me the equivalent ransom if only I would pass along my bank account information, and internet pop-ups helpfully advising that my system is performing poorly, a problem with which it, the pop-up would be more than happy to assist, I realized I was en route to being in a very bad way.

The words of one of my favorite childhood reads came to mind. I said to myself, “Don’t panic.” Then I went to work.

I couldn’t launch old standbys such as Task Manager.  What is more, the virus set all of the files on my harddrive to “Hidden” so as to give the impression that the situation was bleak. Since the computer was still operational except for the never ending stream of fake system failures being announced by the virus, I knew that things weren’t nearly as dire as the virus wanted me to believe.

Clearly, the malware was preventing anything that might to used to put it to an end to it from executing, so I opened a command window, navigated to the windows\system32 directory, issued an Attrib -H, copied taskmgr.exe to taskmgr2.exe and ran it. Using TaskManager, I found the offending process and terminated it with extreme prejudice. Windows prompted me with its usual query about sending information to Microsoft. I selected, “yes” and used the collected information to identify the location and name of the virus program, enabling me to delete it from the system using the command prompt.

Once the virus was no longer operational, I was able to launch Internet Explorer and do some research on the infection which I came to learn was known as “System Check.”

The bleepingcomputer website presents some great information on this virus and what steps one can take to clean it up. I disagree, however, with the advice to shut the pc down before removing at least the primary executable. Restarting computers can often serve to complete installation of programs, including those of the malicious variety. Similarly, once a computer is down, there is little guarantee that, depending on the nature of the infection, the machine will come back up again.

The steps I took to recover from the virus were:

  1. I opened a command window and copied taskmgr.exe to taskmgr2.exe. This allowed me to launch the task manager in order to locate and kill the malicious program;
  2. The ensuing windows message asking if it should send information about the terminated program to Microsoft provided me with the exact location of the program, enabling me to delete it from the system;
  3. From the command window, I also copied regedt32.exe regedt32v2.exe. I used the copy to remove all registry entries referenced in the bleepingcomputer article;
  4. At this point, I was able to download the malwarebytes application and peform a quick scan against my computer. It identified additional vestiges of the virus and removed them;
  5. I reconfigured my Start Menu according to the instructions in the aforementioned article;
  6. I downloaded and installed unhide.exe, also from the bleepingcomputer website. It completed restoration of my start menu and also found and handled a few more bits of the virus — a secondary executable file and a few more registry entries;
  7. I kicked off a full scan of my computer with Malwarebytes; and finally
  8. I rebooted my computer.

At this point, my computer appears to be virus-free, a point on which PC Tools, McAfee and Malwarebytes all agree.

BleepingComputer.com describes the symptoms of the virus in terms of the messages it spews as follows:

Hard drive clusters are partly damaged. Segment load failure.

Hard drive clusters are partly damaged. Segment load failure.

Critical Error

Hard drive critical error. Start a system diagnostics application to scan your hard disk for errors and performance problems.

Windows – Delayed Write Failed

Failed to save all the components for the file \System320004823. The file is corrupted or unreadable. This error may be caused by a PC hardware problem.

Windows detected a hard disk problem

A potential disk failure may cause loss of files, applications and documents stored on the hard disk. Please try not to use this computer until the hard disk is fixed or replaced.

Windows detected a hard disk problem

A potential disk failure may cause loss of files, applications and documents store on the hard disk. It’s highly recommended to scan and solve HDD problems before continue using this PC.

Hard Drive Failure

The system has detected a problem with one or more installed IDE / SATA hard disks. It is recommended that you restart the system.

System Error

An error occurred while reading system files. Run a system diagnostic utility to check your hard disk drive for errors.

Critical Error

Hard drive critical error. Run a system diagnostic utility to check your hard disk drive for errors. Windows can’t find hard disk space. Hard drive error.

Critical Error

Hard drive clusters are partly damaged. Segment load failure.

As for the Dog Food research? The web site in question was entitled, “Veterinarians Reporting Possible Blue Buffalo Dog Food Concerns” located on I Love Dogs dot Com. Be afraid.

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The GOP Presidential Race — We know drama

Winners and losers, rises and falls, spirited and not-so spirited debates, allegations and innuendo.  And now … bobbing for endorsements with Donald.

I have watched the drama surrounding the question of who will and will not participate in the Trump debate with admittedly little interest.  I do enjoy the debates, but as that most wonderful time of the year — Christmas — approaches, a welcome reprieve from the incivility and let’s face it, insincerity of U.S. politics beckons me.

Still, and although I find that “The Apprentice” makes for amusing, if not altogether interesting entertainment, one has to wonder at the Donald’s self-aggrandizing decision to position himself as toll collector on the road to the Republican Presidential nomination.

Let’s be honest: there exists a legitimate question of how much weight The Donald actually carries with voters.  Trump is undoubtedly a brilliant, and, er, somewhat ruthless businessman from whom any aspiring entrepreneur can learn much.  But Mr. Trump has never served in elected office and his political involvement is limited to rampant speculation about a Trump candidacy followed shortly thereafter by an announcement that he didn’t plan to seek office.  It is, therefore, unclear what, exactly, Trump has to offer in terms of vetting Presidential candidates.

Trump promises huge ratings for his debate.  In concert with the obvious advertising profits for the network on which the program will air, and for Trump’s future marketability as a television personality, the candidates who participate will receive added face time with potential voters as the primaries near, not to mention the opportunity to answer questions posed by a moderator who is friendly to their political leanings.

At the conclusion of the debate, however, Trump plans to announce the grand prize winner to whom his endorsement will be awarded, effectively proclaiming that all but one lacks sufficient mettle in his estimate.  The rest, in Trump lingo, will be “fired” from further consideration in his book.  It doesn’t take genius to realize that “failure” is probably not the last lingering impression that candidates would wish to sear into the minds of voters just days before the primary season officially begins.

Further, if Trump is truly interested is finding and endorsing the best contender to unseat the current resident of the White House, must he really have and host his own debate in order to do so?  Can’t he, like the rest of us, learn what he needs from the several dozen or so debates already on the schedule?  And most importantly, is participation in Trump’s own personal debate truly a measure of Presidential qualification?

It seems that as far as Trump is concerned the answer to the last question is a resounding “yes.” In expressing his surprise at Romney’s declination, Donald was quick to point out that the former does desire Trump’s endorsement after all.  The obvious implication of course is that only to a debate participant will Trump’s endorsement go.

The man who brings us “The Apprentice” and its siblings has amassed an enormous fortune over the years as he has played the strings of America’s free-market system like a master harpist.  In doing so, he has never failed to express his belief in the greatness of our nation’s economic system and of the country herself.  Like so many others who hope to see America regain and retain her majesty and place in the world, Trump recognizes that in 2012 we must elect a president who will true up our country’s course so as to align with her founding rather than “fundamentally transforming” her according to a personal ideology.

As such, Trump must rise to the occasion, find a shelf sturdy enough to withstand the weight of his sizable ggo, set the latter upon it, and keep sight of that which is required of all of us.  Specifically, he best proves his worth by putting aside self-serving interests and instead, wielding his influence to support and put forth the man or woman who stands the best chance of winning come November.  And that, regardless of whether that man or woman sees fit to veer off the well-trod campaign trail to one Trump Tower for this month’s premier episode of “The Candidate Apprentice.”

To whom much is given much is expected.  America stands precariously perched on the rim of the abyss.  Will the real Donald Trump now step forward?  Behind Door #1, we have the spoiled child who takes his ball and goes home when the game doesn’t go his way; behind #2, the ruthlessly capable businessman who knows better than most that when one door closes, another opens and through that door countless more.

However true it may be that Trump would make a great debate moderator, it is equally as much, if not more so the case, that this level of noise and drama is not beneficial to either the party or the slate of candidates.  These are serious times that need to be treated seriously. Consideration must be undertaken with the weight and gravity that a decision of this magnitude — the selection of the next potential President of the Unites States — warrants, TV ratings notwithstanding.

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And then there were seven…

The field of GOP Presidential candidates was winnowed by one today when accomplished businessman Herman Cain announced that he was suspending his campaign.  It is not particularly surprising that Cain did not turn out to be the proverbial last man standing among his competitors.  What is striking, however, is the speed and finality with which his political bid was derailed in the wake of accusations leveled by women whose lack of supporting evidence was outweighed only by the obvious benefits they stood to reap by becoming ever-present – for at least 15 minutes or so – fixtures on the evening talk show circuit.

Mind you, I am not one to downplay the seriousness of workplace harassment.  However, patterns of behavior should apply equally to accuser and accused.   How seriously are we to take the word of a woman whose record indicates that filing sexual harassment complaints – sexual harassment of a not overtly sexual nature, that is – is her modus operandi for career advancement.  Or the opportunity afforded by a media tour to a woman who apparently hasn’t been able to gain or maintain employment in over thirteen years (and counting).  And finally, what weight should be given to yet another perpetually unemployed associate who just this year lost a judgment for making slanderous and libelous remarks about a former business partner.

The drum, “where there is smoke, there’s fire” is oft pounded as a mechanism by which to bolster the women’s allegations since apparently, there is little by which to support them on their own merits.  While smoke can often serve as an early warning, it can just as frequently be used to obscure that which actually lies beneath, or more likely in this case, behind it.

The media owes the American public diligence and truth in vetting our potential leaders.  By the same token, the American people are also owed truth and accuracy in reporting.  Stories, all angles of them, should be researched, scrutinized and fact-checked before being published for public consumption.

Our country was founded on the notion that any American, of any background, can make a bid for public office with no barriers to success barring those of public support.  If we accept as the norm the notion that a small handful of people, regardless of the justness of or motivation behind their words and actions can determine the fate of any candidate, and consequently the outcome of any election, then our system of government by the people (and not just a few) is finished.

Should it come to pass that the manner of Herman Cain’s fall is the shape of things to come, then every American who wishes to participate in a vigorous and active civic life should be very, very afraid.

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