Hi Everyone! I need to start out by saying that I DETEST criminals! I will never understand why it is that some people feel like it is alright to destroy others for their own personal gain. For years I have heard about people getting computer viruses in their systems, and had always patted myself on the back for being savvy enough to avoid such a thing. Well, I must have patted too soon because I got hit, and by a pretty nasty one. Let me tell you what happened, that way you will know how to avoid making the same mistake I did. A few weeks ago there had been a Java update notification coming up on my computer at the office and I wasn’t sure whether or not to say “yes” to updating it. He said yes, we need Java, and Adobe too, so when those come up just go ahead and download them. It’s not my computer, so I wanted to be extra, extra careful. I am the first to admit to being a computer dummy. If I have a computer in front of me, all loaded up with everything I need, I can use it just fine, but don’t ask me to figure out what is wrong with something, or how to fix something, because I don’t have a single clue.
Fast forward to last weekend. I was working on a post and got infected with a virus. I didn’t know how, but at the first sign of something weird I grabbed a flash drive and put all of my pictures on it. Must have been God speaking to me, because I don’t know that I would have ordinarily though to do that. Hubby and I went to Office Max and got a copy of PC Protection that they have – it comes with a year’s worth of tech support, as well as some protection software. At that point Hubby had managed to weed out where all the nasty stuff was and wipe it out of my computer . . . or so we thought. It was working better and faster than it had for a very long time. All was good and I considered taking back the protection software because we hadn’t needed it. Yippee! $150 saved, right? Wrong. Wednesday I was sitting here writing a very long blog post to catch up with what I’d missed to that point in the week. It took me a great part of the day. Throughout the time I was typing a box kept popping up on my screen telling me that Java needed to update. I kept ignoring it. I should have KEPT ignoring it. We all know to not click on attachments from people we don’t know. We know to avoid questionable ads or websites. What a lot of us DON’T know is that Java, Adobe, and other necessary programs like it, will not ever flash a stupid box up in the middle of the screen while you’re online doing other things. The real thing shows up when you start up in the morning, or along the bottom bar when one of your icons starts blinking and telling you that there are updates waiting. I didn’t know that. I’m sure a LOT of people don’t know that, right? Please tell me I’m not the ONLY one that didn’t know that!
I got done writing Wednesday’s post, and feeling satisfied with a job well done, I sighed and decided to go ahead and do the stupid update and get it over with, remembering our work IT guy telling me that this is a program I needed. BIG mistake! Within a couple of moments I had all sorts of flashing boxes popping up, warning messages, and POOF – all of my files and pictures that were still on my system were compromised and I couldn’t access any of them. Thank goodness I hadn’t taken back that software! I called the tech support people, got them going remotely inside of my system and found out that this is one of the nasty viruses. What the bad guys do – mostly based in Europe – and more specifically Russia – is to get some poor, unsuspecting computer dummy like me to click on their update box, encrypt all of their files, and demand a ransom to get them back. The 1st of the 3 techs I spoke with over the next 3 days told me that even a police department has gotten hit with this one, and they had to pay the ransom so that they could get all of their files back! Can you imagine the chaos that would cause a police department? They had to completely wipe my system clean and take it back to the way it was when I brought it home from the store, with nothing on it except what it did originally. It is fortunate for me that I didn’t have anything truly valuable on here, most of my things can be recreated over time, but I wonder about the people who put their whole lives into their computer? It wouldn’t have mattered though – I refuse to pay bad guys to keep my own stuff. Bad guys with this sort of genius apparently do not want to use their intelligence for good, no – they’d rather hurt people and use their brains for bad stuff like stealing and hijacking our computers.
Here’s my best advice, something I should have been doing all along. Get some flash drives and start backing up your files and pictures regularly. You might lose something in this sort of attack, but maybe you can keep from losing everything. There IS one really wonderful thing that happened though – I was so afraid that the flash drive I moved all of my pictures to had been encrypted already and was really scared to check it. Well, Hubby checked it and ran a scan on it . . . it’s OK! All of my pictures are safe! I was heartbroken at the thought of losing all of them, so the relief is actually quite profound. Oh, and if one of those pesky boxes pops up on your screen? Ignore it. Back out of everything and restart your computer. If there is a REAL update waiting to happen, your computer will tell you when it starts back up again!