Nice try but not even close update

About a week ago I posted a blog about a threat I received that said they had hacked my computer and unless I sent $810 in bitcoin to a certain purse within 48 hours, my computer would be frozen. If I didn’t, the person issuing the threat would release screen grabs of some of the more questionable sites I’d visited to my contacts list. And to “prove” their claim, they told me what password I’d used. Wrong. They further stated that they had installed a trojan horse that would advise them if I changed my password and would also automatically delete itself once I had made the payment. Well, I laughed at it, wrote a blog about it and deleted it. Of course, nothing happened because they had their facts wrong, mainly the screen grab claim since I don’t have a webcam. Here’s the actual claim: I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.

If people were taken in and actually paid the $810 and then nothing happened to their computer, they would assume they had satisfied the demand and the malware had indeed been removed. What really has happened though is that they paid over eight hundred dollars to a scam artist and nothing was going to happen anyway.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Do not be taken in by these scams and threats. Keep everything backed up on regular basis and remember that in the event such a demand for money is real, it will be cheaper just to take the computer to a technician and have the hard drive replaced than pay the ransom. That, and change your passwords.

Stay safe online and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

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Nice try, but not even close

I received the following email in an address I rarely use:

Hello!

I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from ghoward@shaw.ca on moment of hack: watson

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $810 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: 1JTtwbvmM7ymByxPYCByVYCwasjH49J3Vj

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

Where do I start? Let’s pick the obvious and that is the atrocious English. Now, the only sites I visit that require passwords are Facebook and WordPress, and neither of them have “watson” as my password.

As for my “sites of intimate content”, well, depending upon your point of view, I suppose you could consider videos of Street Outlaws worth telling others about. Oops! I just did, so there goes that threat.

I use very good antivirus programmes, so I’m not concerned about any trojan horses on my system. Another threat dealt with.

If this person did in fact have access to my contacts on this email, they’d note I have only one – and that’s a Toronto Police detective. I’m sure the sergeant would be fascinated by my interest in street racing, considering I don’t have a vehicle.

As for the claim this person used the camera on my computer to capture screen shots of what I was looking at, well, I don’t have a webcam. As I said, nice try, but so wrong.

If you get this, or something similar, I think it can safely be ignored. DO NOT send anything through Bitcoin. There is no way of retrieving it if this is a fraud.

Cat.

Alert – possible system attack

I  received the following email a short while ago.  Actually, I received two – one in my inbox and one in spam.

Dear Corel Customer,

Did you know WordPerfect can import and export to popular Microsoft Office file formats like DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX?

Click here to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility pack to extend the power of WordPerfect and share documents in popular Microsoft file formats. Please note that Microsoft is retiring the Office Compatibility Pack in the near future.
Install Now
For additional information on the compatibility pack or if you have any questions please feel free to contact our customer support team.

Sincerely,
The Corel Team

I do very little work involving Word, and knew that WordPerfect is compatible with Word, so I asked the Corel Support Team whether this would be something I might use. Their response was very interesting:

We have receive several inquiry regarding an email from Corel@email5-corel.com
We are currently investigating this.
For now, we recommend not installing it.
We will notify you once we have validated the source and the content of the email.

So at the moment, it would appear this may not be a legitimate offer. I can understand people may be interested in having the ability to use WordPerfect and be able to handle Word documents, but WordPerfect does this without the installation of external programs or add-ons. If you are one of those people who, like myself prefer WordPerfect, and you receive this or a similar message from the email address in boldface, ignore it. You may be putting your computer at risk.

Cat.

Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

When I say “no”, I mean “no”

I’ve written before of my ongoing battle with computers, which is now some 30 years old.  My first opponent was a Commodore 64 and the current combatant is a Lenovo B575 laptop.

About ten days ago, I was reading one of the news sites I frequent when the computer froze. It wouldn’t accept any input – mouse, keyboard, touchpad or foul language, so the only way out was to shut the system down.  When I rebooted the computer, Windows wouldn’t load.  Fine.  Put the computer away for a couple of days.  I wasn’t going to be home anyway, so that was no sacrifice.

The Lenovo has something called a “one key recovery” feature.  Checked it out.  Two options were presented, the first being restore to factory specs and the second being restore from a backup disk.  Naturally, I hadn’t backed up the hard drive, in fact I don’t know many people who do, so “column B” was out.  Reading the information on option 1, I saw that using it would eliminate everything not on the hard drive when it left the factory.  I had about $300 in software that I’d ordered online (Paintshop Pro Photo X5 and WordPerfect Suite X6) and taken as downloads (dumb idea).  It was a couple of days before I remembered to phone Corel, the supplier, to see if I could get backup disks for these two programmes.  For a fee, I could.  Great.  Now that I know I haven’t thrown away three hundred dollars, I decided to proceed with the restore.

It didn’t take that long to restore.  I was pleasantly surprised to note that Future Shop, where I bought the Lenovo as a demo (last one in the store), had removed a lot of things from the system before they put it on display.  These are things I don’t use or, having tried them, don’t like, such as Chrome.  The system also came with MacAfee antivirus ware.  I’ve never been impressed with MacAfee, but before I uninstalled it, I downloaded and installed my preferred programmes. I might not like it, but at least it should ensure I get  clean download.  Got all my software installed and restored my files from backups which were about a week out of date.  I frequently chat with a friend using Yahoo messenger so went to download that as well.  During the installation process, I was asked if I wanted the Yahoo toolbar.  No.  Guess what.  Despite declining the offer, I got the damn thing anyway.  Uninstalled Yahoo.  Noticed a separate line in the programme listings for this toolbar.  Uninstalled that as well.  No use.  Still stuck with this thing I don’t want and don’t use.

Checked tools and settings in Firefox.  Couldn’t find a way of deleting the toolbar.  Looked in the computer settings with the same result.  Finally had to resort to restoring to factory specs again, which meant back to February 2012 when this system was built.  Through the process again – deep six Chrome and MacAfee; download my choice of antivirusware and reinstall my own software.  I noticed that Adobe Reader was two versions out of date and decided to update that as well.  I know from experience that occasionally there are unwanted hitchhikers on Adobe updates.  In the past my system has caught key loggers and, in one download, a worm buried in these updates.  This time I ended up with something called “Yontoo”, which is adware.  It planted itself in 37 different locations on my system.  Spybot was able to remove 35 of them and I was able to track down one more and delete it, but that last one was in a registry key.  Now I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid enough to go messing with the registry.

I spoke with my son, who is also my tech despite being 3,000 miles away, and he recommended AdAware.  I’ve heard of this programme before and knew it to be good.  Downloaded it.  Again, during the installation I was asked if I wanted to replace my current search engine, Google, with the AdAware secure engine.  Again I said “no”.  And again I might as well have saved myself the effort.  During the install AdAware replaced Google with its own search engine.  Decided to deal with that later.  Ran a full scan of my system with AdAware.  After four hours it caught 13 tracking cookies in addition to the remaining Yontoo irritant.  Deleted all of them.  Decided that if AdAware wasn’t willing to listen to me when I said “no” in response to their offer, I would uninstall the programme.  With AdAware, part of the uninstall process is asking why I don’t want it.  I told them, quite bluntly, that when I say I don’t want part of the programme when asked, I mean I don’t want the f’ing thing.  I must say though that AdAware did also give me instructions on how to restore my preferred search engine.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m offered something in a download, and I decline it, I have an expectation that my wishes will be honoured.  When I say “no”, I mean “no”.

Anyway, my computer is now back up and running and free of any unwanted visitors, so I’ll be posting more rants/raves/reasoned discussions (as usual, reader’s choice).

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

I don’t need it

The following ad popped up on my gmail today:    Free Spell Check Toolbar – http://www.DictionaryBoss.com – Avoid Spelling Mistakes with Free Spell Checker – Download for Free!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t word processing programmes such as Word and WordPerfect come with spell check built in?  I know for a fact WordPerfect does because I sometimes use it, in fact I’ve got it set for Canadian English. I got Microsoft Word Starter as part of Windows when I got this system and yes, it too has a spell check feature (I just checked).  So why would anyone need to download a spell check programme from some outside source?

My concern with this particular programme being advertised is that I probably couldn’t make use of it for I suspect it is an American programme and would constantly correct words like “colour”. As I said, I don’t need it since I don’t use the American lexicon.  Another concern is this: what did they use as a source for their spellings?

Cat.

Sometimes I despair

Two things have me shaking my head and wondering about people and/or organizations over the past couple of days.

Two days ago I posted a piece I called “Am I really Canadian?” clearly labelled and tagged as “Humour”.  This was intended to poke some fun at three of the stereotypes to which some Canadians cling.  From the first comment I received on this posting, obviously my attempt at humour failed, or the poster failed to notice the “humour” label and tag.  Maybe I should have thrown a few “eh”s into the piece. Perhaps it would have sunk in that way eh?  I won’t copy his comments here, but I’ll refill my coffee mug while you read the posting and comments.  There, I’ve now got a nice hot coffee beside me and you’ve finished.  Is there anything in that posting that honestly warrants his first comment?  As I wrote in my response to Rusty Blackwood, I credit my followers and readers with the intelligence to tell the difference between my serious postings and those I put up just for fun – to provide a laugh in someone’s day.  Obviously “snaughty” needs to lighten up a tad.

The other matter is more in the lines of being a frustration.  Last May I went to Future Shop to buy a laptop.  I felt I needed one for the photo business, at least the way I’ve got it set up.  I found a nice Lenovo B575 that seemed to suit my needs.  Unfortunately the only one they had left was the demo model, which they sold to me at a discounted price since it was the demo.  In my posting “Dear Mr Gates” of October 18, I lament that this new laptop runs Windows 7.

Since this was a demo, all I really got from Future Shop was the laptop – no documentation of any kind from Lenovo.  Granted there is a “Lenovo Users’s Guide” on the hard drive, but that basically tells me how to do things like change the battery or replace the hard drive.  That isn’t the kind of information I need.

Being a Canadian machine, this laptop has an English/French keyboard.  Every so often I will somehow turn on the French characters, but since I touch-type, I don’t often look at the keyboard when I’m working, so have no idea what key, or combination of keys I’ve pressed to perform that action. At the moment, I also have long nails for some photoshoots, which don’t help the typing either.  Nothing I’ve tried seems to turn the French off again. I usually have to exit the programme I’m working in and start it up again so the system will reset to English.  If I haven’t saved my work recently, that can be a royal pain.   Another problem is this: how can I clean the screen without damaging anything when a simple soft cloth to remove dust won’t work?   These are not covered in the installed manual, which, as I wrote above, seems to deal mainly with hardware issues.

Yesterday I finally remembered to contact Lenovo to ask about a manual on the care and feeding of the machine for things other than hardware problems.  The person I spoke with directed me to a website where I could download a manual.  It turned out to be the one I already have on the hard drive.  Not satisfactory.  Tried Google.  Every single listing was for that same manual.  That isn’t what I need to know, people.  I have a letter to be mailed to Lenovo on Monday morning explaining my predicament and it ends by saying (I’m paraphrasing now) “if such a manual doesn’t exist, can you at least answer these two questions”.  Ah well, this is just the latest installment in my ongoing battle with computers.

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and pertinent information) too.

Cat.