Help! My PC Is Infected and being used to Spam!

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Mule63' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I would like to know how to get rid of Tracking Cookies. They seem to be using my email to send inappropriate messages to people and my Internet Service Provider (ISP) has threatened to cut my Internet service. Could this cause the computer to go slower? Thank you for any information you can give me. "

My response:

The short and sweet answer is that tracking cookies probably aren't the issue here. The more likely answer is that your computer is infected with Spyware, is part of a botnet, and is being used to proliferate spam. Allow me to explain.

What is a Tracking Cookie?

Tracking cookies (or "cookies" for short) are small, temporary files stored on your computer via your web browser. Cookies help web sites identify / recognize / store session information when you visit a web site. For example: a cookie could store your login information about you (I.E.: your name, or email address) so that the web site you're visiting "remembers" who you are.

Malicious Cookies: Myth Debunked

Not all web sites use cookies. That said, cookies -- even those which "track" info about you -- generally do not pose a threat in terms of causing damage to your PC or others.

The only time a cookie might would be potentially dangerous is if (a): your computer is not up to date, and (b): you're using an old web browser. In this case, a malicious web site may inject a malicious cookie (a web script) and execute it by remote (click here for an example of such an Malicious Cookie exploit discovered in 2002).

However, if your computer is up to date and so is your web browser, the chances of this happening are very slim to none.

Now for the second part of your question.

Help! My PC Is Infected and Proliferating Spam

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often monitor bandwidth consumption to ensure their networks are operating as intended. In this case, the bandwidth we're talking about refers to all incoming / outgoing data from your PC via the email communication port, designated by TCP/IP protocol (port 25).

If your computer's outgoing bandwidth is extraordinarily high on port 25, your ISP would have good reason to believe that your computer is -- whether you know it or not -- sending spam to thousands of people every hour of every day it's connected to the Internet. In such a case, your ISP may contact you and demand that you fix the problem or risk losing your Internet connection until the problem is resolved.

Would all of this activity cause your computer to slow to a crawl?

Absolutely! Not only would it cause high CPU usage (required to process all those spam messages), it it would also clog your outgoing bandwidth, making it difficult -- if not impossible -- to use the Internet.

How to Fix an Infected Zombie Computer used for Spamming

Recently we've discussed the Conficker Worm and how it's converted healthy computers into a network (or "botnet") of Zombie PCs used to spread email spam 24 hours, 7 days a week. While you may not be infected with the Conficker worm, most (if not all) spamming done these days are a result of a Trojan or worm infection.

To remove such an infection, you'll need industrial strength antivirus / antispyware. For this, I recommend Spyware Doctor with Antivirus, as it many layers of protection and is (in my opinion) one of the most complete, most reasonably priced package available on the market.

Scan First, then Adjust Spyware Doctor's Active Monitoring

Be warned: Spyware Doctor uses lots of resources on your PC is capable of scanning any and every incoming / outgoing communication port to ensure maximum protection for your PC.

If your PC is particularly old or slow to begin with, Spyware Doctor's *active* scanning protection may simply be too much for your PC to handle. In that case: you can download Spyware Doctor, run a scan, and then disengage some of the active protection so it's not always running and scanning each / every file as you're using your PC. This will save on CPU and memory usage. Be sure to schedule a scan of your system regularly, however, when you're not using your PC (preferably late a night).

Spyware Doctor: 4 Minute Video Tutorial

Click here to see Spyware Doctor with Antivirus in action.

Download Spyware (Free Scan)

To check whether or not your PC has been infected, I recommend you do a free system scan (link below). Don't forget to update your computer using Windows Updates to ensure your PC is is patched from becoming exploited (again) with the worm. Free scan:

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