Digital Barnacles, or, The Future of Filth

Doom for Windows (Bonus points if you get the reference)

In previous articles, I’ve mentioned the inevitable doom of Microsoft. Once in a million years, I’ve been known to exaggerate, and say that Microsoft’s shoddy products are the root of all evil. Pain, famine, hunger, and warfare are Microsoft’s fault, in my opinion.

But does all the evil in the computer world disappear when they’re gone?

The answer is, unfortunately, no.

Even when Microsoft “kodaks itself” out of business in a few years, there are still other ways in which scammers can take advantage of consumers.

Every day, people call me up thinking their computer is slow due to a virus. A flood of emotion surfaces within me, because I know I have to clear up a lot of misconception. Most people pay a computer guy $300 to run a virus scan, then shrug his shoulders and leave when any other problems are presented to him. That’s a scam unto itself.

The fact is, viruses aren’t the problem for consumers anymore.

THE NEW THREATS ARE:

1: Garbage protection software that can’t protect you from the new threats and are the real reason computers are slow. I service countless customers every year, and immediately upon removing the garbage protection software, the computer is faster than they’ve ever seen it, and usually the problems that prompted them to call me vanish.

Norton, McAfee, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Avast, and even newer versions of AVG slow down the computer IMMENSELY by implementing paranoia on your machine, and cannot protect you from the other New Threats.

Norton is like a gypsy: “Pay me money or I’ll prick you with this pin!” Recent versions of WIRED magazine are featuring ads from them. Why? I thought most new PCs were pre-infected with Norton when you bought them? Well, because the “new” devices (those new non-Microsoft portable things like iPads and Droids) are (for all practical purposes) immune to viruses and run only pre-approved software anyway. Thus, the ONLY malware on Android phones are things Norton and Lookout that break into your mind rather than your device. Ironic.

Note that there are a few programs out there claiming to clean or protect your Mac. These are all destructive.

2: Toolbars, which are legal spyware made by gray-market companies. They are spyware, but since they’re legal, no protection software can detect them. They monitor you and they cripple your web browsers. They usually hijack your homepage and search engine settings, monitoring and monetizing anything you search for. (They’re rampant on Windows machines, but a few are possible on Mac and Mint machines for the most reckless among us.)

3: Nigerian-style scams (as discussed last time). These fake virus scans will be much less ubiquitous in the non-Microsoft future, but phishing will still be possible.

4: Update attackers. Adobe and Java are not only backdoors for viruses, but THEY THEMSELVES attack for updates constantly. If you appease one of these updaters, you’re taken to the official website and given the update- with malware such as “McAfee Security Scan” stuck to the package. Luckily both Adobe and Java are poised to join the ranks of Eniac and Commodore very soon. However, Verizon Android phones are a good example of updates that routinely go sour. NEVER appease an update attack.

5: Stowaways. Windows users should NEVER GO ONLINE AND SEARCH FOR A PROGRAM (e.g. OpenOffice, or Firefox). Scammers such as Softonic and EZ-Download will pounce on you with ads at the very top of the Google/Bing/whatever page. Click on any of them and you’ll be sent to their website, where you’ll receive a poisoned version of whatever it is you wanted. Instead, go to openoffice.org, or firefox.com, which are the official sites.

Likewise, DO NOT SEARCH for things like file openers or drivers. 100% of them are scams.

6: Bloatware. Luckily Mac and Mint machines don’t come with any, but most Windows PCs COME STRAIGHT FROM THE FACTORY PRE-POLLUTED with malware that slows the machine down FROM DAY ONE. As we enter the post-Microsoft world, we’re seeing Bloatware on things like Samsung Android phones now. Never buy them – they’re so obsessed with fancy window animations and the “Lookout” fake security nagware, that the phones are horribly slow out of the box.

7: and finally… INDIAN STYLE SCAMS. Indian-style scams are a vile plague this decade. We’ll talk about them next episode.

What you can do

It’s not a new world – it’s just people abusing people in new ways, and it’s no longer a black-and-white good-guys-and-bad-guys world.

Whenever possible, avoid Microsoft computers the plague they are. They even destroy themselves for fun. If you have one, use ONLY Security Essentials to protect it.

As far as the other scams, there’s nothing besides a little bit of common sense. If you receive a phonecall from an Indian telling you they’re Microsoft and you have a problem, hang up on them. If you see an email from your bank asking you to confirm your details, delete it. If you’re trying to download something, make absolutely certain you’re at the official download site and not some bad-grammar scam site.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more!

 

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7 Responses to Digital Barnacles, or, The Future of Filth

  1. Edward P Stennie says:

    I’ve read your rant on garbage protection software, I’ve even heard you deliver it on radio. Why do you recommend MS Security Essentials? How does it differ from Avast?

    By the way I believe that calls from Indians telling you that you have a computer security problem is caused by security leaks within the legitimate companies themselves. I base my belief on the following incidents. Once in a while I reformat my hard drive and reload my software. Every time I reload MS Office (I own the program) and register it I get a call within a day with someone on the phone claiming to be from MS telling me that my computer is infected. Coincidence? It has happened twice. Just yesterday I received a call from Dell (Indian accent) telling me that my computer monitoring software had notified them that my computer was infected. She asked if I was sitting in front of my computer so she could ‘guide’ me. She hung up when I asked for her extension so I could call Dell to verify her credentials. Why did she claim to be from Dell? Is it because I recently purchased a Dell Latitude from their outlet?

    • teknosophy says:

      Hi Edward, thanks for reading my blog!
      MS Security Essentials is just as good, and usually better, than all the rest of the antivirus programs. It also covers a wider range of baddies. Unlike all the others, it doesn’t slow you down by 90%, and unlike Avast, it doesn’t ring and bing and ding and nag and talk to you! As I say on my show all the time, the REAL threats are the unstoppable legal garbage (MyPCBackup, PC Optimizer Pro, any Toolbar) as well as the new unstoppable Hostageware stuff.

      I do believe it’s a coincidence that these guys called you. They dial random numbers in America all the time (including those without computers) claiming they’re ANYONE – Dell, Microsoft, you name it. You did the right thing. Call them out on their BS. They’re the pawns of evil scammers who realize this entire industry is complete ANARCHY and Microsoft is CLUELESS.

      Buy a Mac, or have me install Mint on one of your machines, and keep hanging up on those guys. Cheers!
      Marc

      • Edward P Stennie says:

        I will not waste time recounting the security and usability of Microsoft products. MS SUCKS. Read ‘The’Inmates are Running the Asylum’. That said my clients and my programming tools are on the MS platform. As attractive as Mint sounds it’s not in my immediate future. Note I’ll never say never, I’ve had to eat crow many times. I don’t find it very tasty.

        I’ve switched to MS Security Essentials. Not viral problems so I’ll assume it’s functioning as designed. It’s a pleasure not having a voice constantly notify me that the software has been updated or being hawked for additional products. Can’t say I notice a big performance difference, My new laptop has a solid state drive and is blazing fast (instant boot up). Which bring me to my next question.

        I am becoming more and more concerned about data security to the point I’m becoming paranoid. My laptop requires a finger swipe to boot-up, access the hard drive, and start Windows. Is my hard drive protected should someone remove and connect it to another computer? I don’t know and Dell technical support (joke) can’t tell me. Research on the web tells me that encoding software won’t work with SSDs because of leveling. I am looking into another SSD with hardware encoding. What maker is best?

        What about backup? How secure are the online services? Which one? I it beter to use an external drive. Whose?

        Sorry to bother you with these questions but I value your opinions and experience.

  2. teknosophy says:

    Hi Edward,
    For once, a comment that’s not Viagra spam!

    Thanks for reading my article. How’d you find out about me?

    Good choice switching to MS SE. Yes, aside from the speed increase (more noticeable on mechanical hard drives), it’s MUCH less annoying.

    Unfortunately, viruses don’t matter anymore. The REAL threats are:
    1: Companies that attack machines legally, such as the Ask.com, whitesmoke, trovi, mywebsearch spyware
    2: Update attackers, such as Adobe and Windows update attacks
    3: Unstoppable new-generation viruses

    If you’re concerned about security, find an old PC in your closet and we can put Mint on it. You don’t have to use it full-time, but you can get used to the post-Microsoft future.

    As far as the fingerprint reader, that’s almost always COMPLETE GIMMICKRY. Unless you have whole-drive or home-folder encryption, anyone can look at your stuff no problem.

    As far as backups, make sure NOT to use the WD-Smartware “auto-backup” garbage. It creates nearly-unreadable backups. Buy a Toshiba backup drive from Amazon (or me), erase the included spyware, and do MANUAL backups periodically.

    Hope that helps!
    Marc

    • Edward P Stennie says:

      Hi again Mark. How did I learn about you? I’ve heard you on 1040 AM. I appreciate your no BS approach and the fact that your not shilling vendor products. That goes a long way in earning my respect. I’m a programmer, system integrator, and hardware engineer. I have over 40 years in the industry. I’ve gotten pretty good at detecting BS. That’s how I survived.

      Two questions:
      1: I want to replace the SSD drive in the laptop with one that has hardware encoding. What manufacturer do you recommend?

      2. Whose backup software do you recommend for the Toshiba backup drive?

      Best regards,
      Ed

      • teknosophy says:

        Hi Edward,
        Awesome. A BS detector will take you very far in life, I’ve learned!

        1: Anybody, really. So far, I haven’t got a preference on SSD manufacturers. Check newegg for pricing and reviews.
        2: No backup software!! Most auto-backup software (3rd party or Microsoft) creates unreadable archive files that ignore the folder structure and require you to have your old computer to use. Erase any backup drive and perform manual backups. I always make a new folder on the backup drive with today’s date, then copy-paste the relevant folders (e.g. my documents) into that folder, thus creating a snapshot, if that makes sense.

        Cheers!
        Marc

      • Edward P Stennie says:

        Thanks for answering my questions. I was never excited about encrypting backups. I worked for Kodak in the storage industry for a number of years in the area of archival storage. This is the type of storage that major institutions: banks, hospitals, governments, etc. are interested in, Data that can be stored for a 100 years. One day it dawned on me that while everyone was concerned about the integrity of the media no one was focusing on obsolescence of the hardware to retrieve the data on the 100 year media. Consider data stored on 5.25 floppies. Where other than someones basement so you find a drive that will read the data. Something to consider when you backup data. Better yet what about 8″ floppies, zip disks, bernoulli disks, etc.

        I’ll keep reading you postings. Many of them provide interesting food for thought. Hopefully it will never happen but if disaster computer strikes you will be the first person I call.

        Best regards,

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