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December 15, 2004

Don't Try This at Home

The other night I was trying to play online poker with my wife, but because we have a NAT/firewall, we were both showing up as the same IP address and it was not letting us play at the same table.

No problem, I think, I'll just attach my computer outside the firewall so it gets a different IP address directly from the DSL provider. After all I had run like this up to about 9 months ago when I bought the firewall.

I'm running Windows 2000 SP 4 and of course my account is administrator...but even so I was astonished at how quickly my machine got exploited. Within 5 minutes my hard drive was churning, Task Manager was showing all kinds of processes with names like update0.exe and update1.exe, someone or something was continually launching ftp.exe, my email client sent out 45 infected emails, and my machine was cranking out 100 network packets per second as some unidentified piece of malware tried to phone home.

(It reminds me of one of those tawdry French police tabloids they used to sell in Montreal when I was a kid: "Les ordinateurs...COMPROMIS et EXPLOITÉS!!!" Gak! A little searching reveals that Allo Police just went under!!!)

Plus, after I yanked the network cable, rebooted into safe mode, and ran Ad-Aware and Spybot, Windows 2000 would no longer boot; it hung after login, before the taskbar and Start button appeared.

So I wound up junking that install of Windows and doing a clean install of Windows XP SP2 from a CD. Which meant I first had to figure out why it couldn't boot off my CD-ROM drive. Then why XP SP2 wouldn't see the 80 gig drive I installed (still haven't figured that one out). And I had to puzzle over that confusing page of XP network setup where it asks you to choose between accessing the Internet directly or over a home network. I think it is trying to decide if you need to configure a proxy, but in my case the answer is "Both, sort of." And help isn't, although the question mark button does bounce around the screen real cute (before providing you with useless information).

So now I have a nice shiny XP SP2 build, and when I moved it outside the firewall last night, it kept all the baddies out (and I knocked my wife out with a flush on the river, but I digress).

Posted by AdamBa at December 15, 2004 08:44 PM

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