Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rogueware and Ransomware

Well now I have a name to put to it, not that it matters.  I came across an article that talked about exactly what I had experienced. (See my post for Jan 14th).

Twice in the last year programs looking very legitimate, in fact imitating windows security systems, popped up on my screen and informed me I had some nasty viruses on my computer.  They gave me the option of getting rid of them by pressing the "ok" button, or ignoring it by pressing the "cancel" button. 

I handled this incorrectly both times, and both times I got to a place where they wanted me to send them money in order to fix the problem.  If you get that far, you've screwed up.  The first time I should have known better, the second time I was tired and just wasn't paying attention.  The software & message looked very similar to software I was familiar with, but it was anything but.

If a message pops up, look at it very carefully, make sure it's legitimate.  Do not respond "ok" or "cancel", until you're positive - those buttons can be programmed to do anything.  If you're not positive you're dealing with your normal anti-virus software, hit the red x in the upper right corner to close the program, or just manually turn off your computer and wait a few minutes.  When you're back run a complete scan - if you can. Hopefully that will deal with it.  If not, try to figure out how to remove it manually.

I reckon.

These programs look very authentic, they hijack your computer to or greater or lesser degree and won't give it back until you send them money (so they say).  Anyone who is criminal enough to highjack my computer is probably not to be trusted with my credit card information, and under no circumstances will they get it.  I will (and did) reformat my hard drive and re-install the operating system before I send them money.

Ok, so hopefully I'm ready for the next time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sometimes you just have to live with a sore neck.

On Saturday Jan 22nd, I woke up with a very sore neck.  I'm not sure how a person can sleep on their neck wrong, but I managed it.  It kept getting worse - neck, shoulder, arm, headaches etc, but finally this afternoon it seems to have let up.  There's still some soreness, but it is going away.

I guess it's part of getting older.  If the past is any prediction of the future, I'll be older tomorrow than I am today, and it'll just continue on that way.  Everything will work just a tad less effeciently than it did the day before. 

I managed to keep up my "rigorous" schedule - walking the dog and such.  But still it hurt.

I can't imagine someone having to live with pain like that every day of their lives, but I know lots of people do.  All in all, I've been fortunate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Heap O' Livin'

I read parts of a book of poems called A Heap O' Livin' by Edgar Guest.  It is copyright 1916.  It's hard for me to read a book of poems from begining to end - short little span of attention I guess - so I didn't.   In the back there was an index of first lines so if one caught my attention I went to the the poem and read it.

When I picked up the book I was just looking for something to read.  I didn't know who Edgar Guest was, and I no idea that he was a very prolific & popular poem writer from the early to mid 20th century. 

William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Samuel Coleridge, Edgar Guest. 

"One of these poets is not like the others, one of these poets just doesn't belong".

Willam, Walt, Samuel & Co. will not have their literary standing challenged by Edgar.  But it wasn't a bad collection.  They were poems about dogs, relationships, children, parents, religion, morals, attitudes, back seat driving, buying a house, childhood friendships, the responsibilities of adulthood, all with meters and beats and rhyming schemes. They were sentimental and many had a little humor in them. The whole collection amounts to his opinion of life as he knew it in 1916.  That's pretty significant. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Difference Between Me & John Steinbeck

Me:  The patrol heard a dog howling in the distance.

John Steinbeck: "Down toward one end of the village, among the small houses, a dog complained about the cold and the loneliness.  He raised his nose to his god and gave a long and fulsome account of the state of the world as it applied to him.  He was a practiced singer with a full bell throat and great versatility of range and control.  The six men of the patrol slogging dejectedly up and down the streets heard the singing of the dog, and one of the muffled soldiers said, 'Seems to me he's getting worse every night.  I suppose we ought to shoot him.' "
  -from The Moon Is Down, 1942

Guess I'll keep my day job.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trojan, Worm or Virus?

I had Norton anti-virus, firewall etc until last Tuesday. I also had a couple of back-ups - malwarebytes and windows defender, because nothing seems to catch everything. And I kept the computer up-to-date with all the windows security updates. But to no avail.

Sunday night I got fooled - as I was preparing to shut everything down and go to bed, I got a message from Windows Defender - it caught a trojan, and wanted to know if I wanted to fix it. But of course, I said, and I clicked a button to fix it, and immediately a service agreement form popped up. That's was odd - because Windows Defender and I were good buddies. I shut everything down and went to bed, figuring I'd run malwarebytes Monday.

Monday morning, everything was screwed up royally. I noticed problems immediately. There were icons on my desktop that I did not put there and had no business being there. There was a big red X next to the clock display. The windows security shield was displayed, odd since I never used windows security, and the windows defender icon was displayed, the Norton icon was nowhere to be seen.

The windows security and windows defender were not real. They took me to some foreign program wanting money.

In a few seconds something that looked like Windows defender popped up and told me I had this terrible virus on my computer. But I noticed now, which I didnt when I was tired the previous night, that it said "Windows Defense", not "Windows Defender". Defender = good, Defense = bad. The graphics were exactly the same, but it was a different program. I'm pretty sure the virus they warned me about was not on my computer.

S0, I attempted to run malwarebytes - it would not run. When I looked at the processes, mbam.exe was displayed, but the software was not running. I attempted to start up Norton, and it would not start. I attempted to download other software that removes malicious software, but everything seemed to be blocked. I could not download anything.

I don't know if it would have done any good to do a system restore, but it didn't matter, because that seemed to be blocked too. I also tried doing this with different browsers, but it made no difference.

So whoever was responsible for this is sophisticated enough to get past all my computer's defenses, disable them all, and keep me from doing anything about it. But they weren't sophisticated enough to do this without my knowledge. It was as plain as day immediately that things were not right. I wonder what happens when they finally figure out how to take over my computer without my knowledge.

"Windows Defense" is known, and there were instructions on how to remove it. Spy-doctor would apparently do it, except I could not download it. There were manual instructions, but in this case they only worked to a point. I certainly like getting down and dirty in the registers, but after awhile the instructions did not correspond to any of the realities I was experiencing.

So Monday afternoon, figuring the computer was hosed up but good, we disconnected it and carted it down to Ron's Computers on main street in Valdese. I'm glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the local economy.

We brought down the old laptop, did a little rewiring, downloaded a printer driver, and we were good to go. Everybody could get online and function at the stuff we need to do. (We have a little home business going). Monday was pretty much a wash, but Tuesday was a normal day.

We got the desktop back from Ron Tuesday afternoon - he formatted the hard drive and reloaded Windows XP. I could have done that, had I known where my disks were. That's not as bad as it may seem - I had everything backed up on an external drive. I did lose paint shop pro 8 - something I downloaded a lifetime ago. And I had a great game of Civ III going - I was doing good and getting ready to attack the French, my first step in conquering planet earth and that's gone now.

I've decided to get along without Norton - this is twice in the past year that something like this has happened. Back in February 2009, we were able to recover, but not this time. So not only did Norton fail to catch these things twice, but both times it was put completely out of commission. Norton isn't free, and I can certainly pay a lot less for something that apparently has major flaws, so now I've gone another route, and we'll see how that works. I no longer have Windows Defender either, and I'm going to let that go. I did download Malwarebytes. I upgraded to IE8, and also have the latest versions of firefox and opera.

So things seem to be working, all the scans come back clean, but I'm still in a wait and see mode.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doctor & Dentist

Just call 2010 the medical year so far, though it's nothing unplanned. I had a physical last week, and some scheduled dental work this week.

I don't like either one - the dental work especially was torture. Everything went as planned, nothing out of the ordinary, but I was warned that my gums would be sore when the Novocaine wore off. It seems they know what they are talking about.

I know this stuff is necessary. I know that a dollar spent now may save ten or a hundred or a thousand down the road. But it isn't pleasant & it screws up the routine severely.

Not that I'm routine oriented. Or maybe I am and don't know it. I'll have to examine that. I do tend to do the same things at the same time everyday, but much of that is because of the dog and the cat. I'll blame the animals.

But visits to the doctor & dentist just throws things off balance.

And the Novocaine is still not completely gone, but it's gone enough that I'm feeling quite a bit of pain. So ratz in batallions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Watching People Work

Today we loaded up as usual to go to the post office - well a little earlier than usual because we didn't do any eBay listing because I had to take care of a little screw up I caused on Tuesday. But, to quote my previous post, that's not what this post is about. Just a little word of advice - when you go to a doctor & they write some prescriptions, make sure you've got them all before you leave.


We loaded up EARLIER than usual to head to the post office. Patti Anne volunteered to take the mail in this time and it involved a trip to the counter so I figured we had a few minutes. So I took Gnarls Barkley and walked around some. Valdese is building a new town hall just south of the post office, so Pickles and I watched them work for a minute or two.

Watching other people work is a time-honored tradition in American society. I highly recommend it, especially when heavy equipment and ditches are involved. Its a lot more fun to watch it than to actually do it. I speak from experience, based on my short tenure as a landscape laborer many, many years ago. Pickles did seem more interested in dirt clods though. She's a dog, what can you do?

After that we walked across St. Germain, Pickles jumped up on a wall next to the Waldensian museum and we sat there watching traffic go by until Patti Anne returned. It was great fun. Tails were wagged.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Making up Grammar

There is a commercial on television about a person who is using a drug to help him quit smoking. The person's name is Herb, and frankly, he's pretty creepy. But this post is not about that.

This post is about a sentence used in a voice over for that commercial, by someone who isn't Herb, but still may be creepy, not sure. The sentence is something to the effect that after a certain amount of time 44% of users "were quit".

Were quit?

First things first - there is a whole laundry list of pretty outrageous possible side effects with this drug, mood changes, suicidal thoughts or actions, tendencies toward violence, and I'm not sure that a less than 50% chance of it actually working is worth the risk of those side effects. But this post isn't about that.

Were quit.

Is that correct usage? How about 44% of people quit? Or, 44% of people had quit.

I think "were quit" is made up.

I know there are secondary, less common usages of words. War, for example, is a noun, but it is possible "to war" with a someone or another nation. (I think). But this just doesn't sound right.

I looked on google, and found this site that conjugates the VERB "to quit". Click here to go to it. There's a lot of ways to use quit here, and not a "were quit" in the bunch. Maybe "were quit" is correct usage, maybe it's jargon, maybe it has a specific meaning in certain industries. But I don't like it. That's what this post was about.

That is all.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cold Weather Dog Walking - Revised

I'm very, very tired of writing about the weather. But if it doesn't get warmer soon, and I don't think it's going to for 10-15 days or more, I'm just going to have to kick somebody. It won't be my dog, because she's just a dumb animal and doesn't know any better, and it won't be my wife because I have to live with her. And it probably won't be anybody else, because I don't want to get arrested. But the thought is there. I'll mentally kick a passerby somewhere and leave it at that.

So Pickles and I walked the South Avenue, Praley, Pineburr, Orchard route this morning, a little shorter than normal, because it was 17 degrees out. (That's about -8 Celsius). This is normal, maybe even balmy for places like Minnesota, Montana, New York, and the southern parts of Canada, but I'm pretty sure we should be up around 50 degrees (10 Celsius) this time of year.

The dog didn't seem to care. But I did. It is funny how acclimated a person becomes. I lived in Minneapolis for 2 1/2 years, and I got so I could tell the difference between 2 below & 2 above zero (-18 & -16 Celsius). If it was 2 above, it was ok to go for my little pre-work 2 mile trot. If it was 2 below, it wasn't, and I could tell just by walking out side. At 14 below (-25 Celsius), breathing was painful.

14 below is 31 degrees colder than what I was walking thru this morning. So by one reckoning, I shouldn't complain. But it's an expectation thing. This part of the country should never be this cold this long. It aint right.

Now, before you go blaming President Obama for the weather, keep in mind that in this part of North Carolina, Republicans and Democrats that might as well be Republicans reign supreme. Our US Congressional Representative, Patrick McHenry, is a good example (That's a great name, isn't it?). He has to be a couple of steps to the right of Glen Beck. You have to get up on the sidewalk to get to the right of Patrick McHenry. If he were out on the coast, you'd have to swim in the ocean to get to the right of Patrick McHenry, and I bet that would be cold. I have to blame someone for all this, so I blame our local, state, and federal representatives, since they keep getting elected and should have a grasp on local conditions. Obviously they've dropped the ball here, and let it get real cold for too long. And I'll mentally kick a random person later, maybe.

But the dog doesn't care. She's just plain goofy. I cut it short because it was painful, I'm sure she could have gone 5 more miles.