Computers, bloody computers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Outerinfo: AdWare, SpyWare, and Pop-Ups

I have a friend whose computer is infected with the Outerinfo pop-up...thing. I don't know whether to call it a virus, or SpyWare, or simply AdWare. It's a program that will cause advertising pop-ups to appear on your screen, regardless of pop-up blockers or other steps you have taken to normally avoid pop-ups.

Pop-ups suck. First of all, they're annoying. Secondly, they consume processor resources that you might have wanted to use for other purposes - like, say, using your computer. Pop-ups may consume 100% of available resources and render your computer useless. Thirdly, they represent an invasion of privacy - it's bad enough having ads on television, but imagine ads suddenly popping up and over the program you're watching. (Oh, that's right - a lot of networks do that now, having cutesy little moving ads for other shows occupying a significant portion of your screen and plopped right on top of your program.)

Finally, they're dangerous. These ads may be providing a gateway for more serious computer invasions.

I haven't been hit with these problems, not yet. I always surf with the Google toolbar with the pop-up blocker activated, and I keep AVG Anti-Virus and AVG Anti-Spyware (from http://www.grisoft.com/) active at all times. But if you do get infected, what can you do?

I've been looking into this problem for a while, and I still don't know the answer.
Pretty much every discussion I find of "outerinfo removal" or "outerinfo cleanup" starts with something like, "Here is my HijackThis! log, and it shows that..." I did some digging into HijackThis! and found this page, which started with these words: "Editors Note: Hijack This is for advanced users. If you are not familiar with running processes on your computer as well as anything ever installed that could tie into your web browser, it will not be much help to you." Great.

I'm posting this in the hope that someone, somewhere, knows a simple solution to getting this taken care of - even if that simple solution involves taking the computer to Best Buy or Circuit City and paying them to remove the program. But while I'm waiting, I'll post what links I've found.

First off, Outerinfo offers uninstall instructions, which I have been told do not work: http://www.outerinfo.com/howto.html

Here are various examples of people posting HijackThis! logs to various forums, and the removal instructions they received:
http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/topic53234.html
http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Outerinfo-removal-help-ftopict52749.html
http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Hijack-log-problems-outerinfo-ftopict52664.html
http://forums.spywareinfo.com/lofiversion/index.php/t70139.html
http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t99535.html
http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/How-to-remove-Outerinfo-pop-ups-aka-PurityScan-OIN-t134763.html

(And check out this quote: "Outerinfo is now being installed with other nasty malware that this procedure may not fix, so after following it I strongly suggest you post your HiJackThis log as well as the other logs on the forum and we'll clean up the rest of it.")

Finally, the question that's on the mind of anyone who's dealt with Outerinfo, or something similar, from Yahoo! Answers:

"Why hasn't OuterInfo been prosecuted? I keep getting these OuterInfo popup ads. And, I can tell by my web searches that many people are bothered by this problem. So, why is OuterInfo still in business? Can't the Department of Consumer Affairs shut them down? Can' t they be sued? They need to pay a hefty price for all the harm they cause. They are a criminal company and need to be prosecuted. And, the people who run it should be sent to prison."

And the responses:

"Best response", as selected by Yahoo! voters: "The reason this type of activity doesn't result in criminal prosecution is that there are no effective criminal laws covering the activity. They can be sued, but that's expensive, and the probability of recovery is relatively small, especially compared with the cost of the lawsuit."

Another response: "There are specific restrictions in place under the federal CAN-SPAM law and other related laws. But most companies skirt the edges of those provisions. But you can file a complaint with the FTC. "

If anyone has some solution that non-expert users can apply, or has a recommendation for professional assistance, please let me know. Thanks!

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