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February 5, 2004 3:03 PM   Subscribe

My sister called me saying that she has gotten these big phone bills the past two months with all sorts of 900 numbers on them. ($900 worth last month.) She has no kids, so I suspect she's a victim of a web dialer. Sure enough, she mentioned picking up the phone and hearing the sound of a modem when she wasn't online. I did some research, and it looks like these are fairly wiley beasts, difficult for even a savvy user to get rid of. I'm scared to send her poking around in her registry. Can anyone recommend a particular piece of software she can run that will clean house for her, without her having to get her hands too dirty? So far, I have told her about AdAware, but it sounds like that won't do the job completely.
posted by badstone to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
spybot is arguably a better spyware killer than adaware although I use both. another thing you could look into is a browser hijacker remover of some sort; don't remember the name of the one I have at home.
posted by juv3nal at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2004


I haven't heard of this. Do you mind explaining how it works?
posted by doubtful_guest at 4:08 PM on February 5, 2004


I recommend this SpyBot - I know there are others, but I use this one personally and it's been remarkably effective for me in keeping crap off the PCs of family members.
posted by JollyWanker at 5:20 PM on February 5, 2004


Personally, if there is in fact money being charged to her account, I would back-up my pertinant documents and format the hard drive just to be sure. You would probably have to do it for her, but man, this doesn't sound like something to mess around with.
posted by Hildago at 5:33 PM on February 5, 2004


As far as I know, the RBOCs are required to offer -- at no charge -- to block all calls to 900 and 976 numbers from any line. While of course it would be most sensible to nip this in the bud by removing the dialer (and the aforementioned SpyBot specializes in that) and perhaps avoiding reading porn sites in IE with ActiveX turned on in the future, it might also be prudent to have 900/976 blocking put into place to prevent such a thing from recurring.

And maybe it'd be prudent to unplug the ol' modem when it's not in use.
posted by majick at 7:49 PM on February 5, 2004


Personally, if there is in fact money being charged to her account, I would back-up my pertinant documents and format the hard drive just to be sure. You would probably have to do it for her, but man, this doesn't sound like something to mess around with.

let me strongly second hildago's suggestion. back up any data/documents, and wipe the drive.
posted by lescour at 8:58 PM on February 5, 2004


Let me third hildago's suggestion, and also offer that you teach her how to use a computer safely. Putting 900-number blocks is all well and good, but you're attacking the symptoms, not the problem.
posted by Jairus at 9:58 PM on February 5, 2004


Sure. Reinstall the OS. Is she running a firewall?
posted by salmacis at 1:15 AM on February 6, 2004


Let the phone company know ASAP, preferably sounding dumb, confused, and on the verge of tears. At the very least, they should stop charging her for anything going forward. Best case, they'll be sympathetic and not charge her for any of them.

And unplug the phone cord from the laptop when you're not using it. No physical connection, no dialing.
posted by mkultra at 9:02 AM on February 6, 2004


I haven't heard of this. Do you mind explaining how it works?
A Trojan webdialer is an app that a hacker sneaks into your machine that proceeds to use your modem to call 900 numbers.

RBOCs are required to offer -- at no charge -- to block all calls to 900 and 976 numbers
She did this after the first big bill (she's gotten two now.) Then, she still had problems. She said something about the hacker making "3rd party calls" that caused her line to accept collect calls. Very nasty.

avoiding reading porn sites in IE with ActiveX turned on in the future
I will tell her about fixing her IE security. I'm afraid to tell her about how this stuff probably got on her machine. The thing is, she had a bastard of a boyfriend and a nasty breakup that followed. I suspect it was him, not her, that used the machine to visit porn sites. It will be a difficult conversation to have. :)

unplug the phone cord from the laptop when you're not using it
First thing I told her.

I would back-up my pertinant documents and format the hard drive just to be sure. You would probably have to do it for her
I was afraid of that. The big problem here is that we live very far from each other. I would much prefer to be sitting at her machine myself and clean everything up, instead of talking an extreme novice who is very freaked out through an involved technical process like this.

Goddamn computers suck sometimes...
posted by badstone at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2004


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