OK, I’ll admit it, I was trying to be a smartass and find a way to create a sequence of déjà vu, déjà lu, déjà bu… with a final entry that had something to do with plagiarism and ends in -u. It didn’t work out, obviously, but there’s a cautionary tale to follow anyway.
Yesterday, a friend of mine who gets to photograph celebs (and he does a damned good job of it too) recently discovered that a whole slew of his latest shots of a particularly popular young lady (can you say Transformers?) had been stolen and uploaded to a site on the ‘Net.
He gets alerted when things like that happen (he uses Google Alerts) because, of course, the scumbags who do this kind of thing want to drive traffic to their site so they register changes to their content with Google as quickly as possible, and the rest should be fairly obvious.
So he went to the site to check on the potential abuse of his property. All of a sudden, pop-ups started appearing in droves on his screen, followed by a dialog that advised him that he could buy some software to stop pop-ups like those from appearing.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already…
He closed the dialog because he wasn’t interested in buying the crap that was being sold – and that was probably the point at which his system was infected.
It’s a relatively recent trend, but one that’s alarming. There are scams that use specially coded dialog boxes designed so that when you click Cancel or hit the Close button, that’s when the payload gets triggered.
The solution is to NOT do anything with the dialog. Don’t click on it at all. How do you know if the dialog’s an infection carrier? You don’t, but it doesn’t harm to treat it as if it is. There’s Protection in Paranoia.
Resist the urge to even think of buying the software – the same bunch that “sell” the software also create the pop-ups to make you feel nervous or annoyed, and in any event they’re not interested in selling you anything; they want your credit or debit card info so that a few hours later they can vacuum all the available money from your account.
The solution is to run the Task Manager (generally Ctrl-Shift-Esc will pull it up in Windoze), select the Applications tab, and delete any entry for your browser until there are none left active. Then close Task Manager (File > Exit) and run a full antivirus scan on your system just to make sure that nothing slipped through. Especially check for what are known as rootkits.
(Also consider backing up your registry about once a week onto a separate external medium such as a memory stick or recordable CD/DVD. You can find out how on the ‘Net through Google.)
Even if they can’t persuade you to let them steal your money, these scum will settle for damaging your operating system – which is what happened to my friend (who runs Vista, which I didn’t know at all until yesterday, but I do know now that I will never allow it on any of our systems).
In my friend’s case, the malware damaged his registry in such a way that he couldn’t run any installed application directly, and more importantly he couldn’t run any operating system tools to help revert to an earlier copy of the registry (we did try the simple approach of F8 after POST and choosing the option to revert to a last known good configuration).
I managed to perform a few minor checks that didn’t need the registry to work (I ran a boot-time disk integrity scan of his drive, and then ran his antivirus software via a mouse right-click action, which was helpful but oh-so-slow), but we had to give up eventually and he called in some professional help since I wasn’t able to do anything really useful. I’m a firm believer in staying out of things I don’t understand well enough. But that professional help is going to cost him.
In the meantime I’ve done some research on Vista and I discovered that Microsoft arranged it so you can’t easily create a boot/rescue CD or DVD for that OS. How nasty is that? Can you imagine the contemptuous attitude towards the user there must have been in Marketing meetings over that?
Thinking about it, Toyota recently exhibited a similar attitude towards their customers by initially refusing to accept that there was any problem with some of their vehicles. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking Toyota’s technology or its engineers. We own a Toyota and we couldn’t be more pleased with it. But the public relations sometimes sucks, and execs are to blame for that since they’re the decision makers.)
Maybe it’s a new requirement to become an exec: scorn the user’s real needs, just give them what Marketing say they should have that’s cheapest to produce, and it doesn’t matter if some of the components are shoddy because focus groups said it doesn’t. Can you tell how unimpressed I am with today’s senior management in a slew of companies?
Back to the story.
It is possible to create a Vista start-up disk, but you need access to another ‘Net-accessible system to do all the work first (which is what I’m doing for my friend now, to handle any future instances).
I can recommend HowToGeek.com’s helpful article especially – it’s a useful starting point and contains links to other useful sites.
In the meantime, after almost a full day’s work, we understand that his system has been recovered and he should be back up and running again by this evening.
But how depressing. You get ripped off by scum, and when you go to check to see exactly what they ripped off, you get screwed by them yet again.
It’s like getting mugged, and while you’re reporting the assault to the local police, the mugger burgles your house because they know you’re going to be elsewhere for a while, and hey, they’ve got your house keys, your address from other materials you were carrying, and other useful info that will come in handy down the road when they get someone else to screw you still further. (It happens, too).
Yesterday was also a little depressing for me, too, but for different reasons.
I was asked if I wanted to appear in a Jay Leno (who returns shortly to host the Tonight Show, on my birthday as it happens) sketch as a “distinguished gentleman” but I had to turn the invitation down.
Partly because it’s not a good time right now (eviction looms yet again, and this time I don’t think we’re going to be able to avoid being on the streets) and partly because the one and only time I was ever remotely “an actor” I was 7 years old and I didn’t enjoy it one tiny bit. I didn’t even act – I was an announcer. One of these days I’ll paint the picture on this blog.
It’s given me an aversion to the limelight that stays with me 50 years on. It doesn’t matter that there are no longer limelights – the principle is the same. I have great respect for those who can act – I just can’t bring myself to tread the boards. It would probably kill me (or at the very least leave me capable of taking only “drooling vegetable” rôles).
Oh, well. Maybe I can get a gig as a homeless person on a reality show. Very soon. Viewers only ever get to see me in silhouette inside a cardboard box.