Coping: Grist for the Truly Paranoid–Computer Prepping

This wasn’t much of a weekend.

Most of it was spent fighting computer attacks and here’s the odd coinky-dink:  my buddy Gaye up at was also having her fair share of problems.

Not that they were insurmountable, in either case, since we are both “children of the Halt and Catch Fire days up in the Silicon Forest.

I don’t think she’d mind my sharing this from a New Years Day email about how her new year started:

About 4PM yesterday Malwarebytes started popping up with “blocked malicious site” message every 20 seconds.  Looks like I got the SysWOW64 virus.  Tried to remove it but finally posted in the bleeping computer forum – eta for help is 5 days.  Don’t know how the hell I got it.

Like us, she keeps computers in reserve/offline ready for this kind of emergency and by noon on New Years, she reported:

Good news.  It pays to have the premium version of Malwarebytes.  They responded to my support request within an hour, gave me a list of things to do, and all is now well.

Unfortunately, that’s right about when things started to hit the fan around here. 

Remember last week when I was telling you about how our internet service was terrible?  Still is dreadful, but about noon Friday one of our computers – the one hooked up to the big screen in the living room, and the one which streams YouTube, TedTalks, and Amazon & Netflix – kacked.

Antivir  which is one line of defense, started telling us we had a virus – which when removed, reappeared in less than an hour, and without being online.  Bad sign.

So that got me to running a full virus scan (clean) followed by a Malwarebytes scan (found one virus) and thought that would be it.


By Saturday, the computer was up to it’s terrible performance again – but neither Antivir nor Malwarebytes was finding anything. 

In fact, the only indication of something wrong was a buttload of .js and .json files up in the (sometimes hidden)  user local and roaming files; this was a Win-7 box.

Even with no viruses found, the system kept on creating these Java files and it was really bizarre.  In fact, the first time I ran Windows onboard file clean-up, it found somewhere north of half a million files up there.  And even when deleted, they would come back.

So that led (Saturday afternoon) to me going to war with the computer.  I got out an axe (figuratively) and went after everything.  Killed everything in the StartUp, uninstalled programs that I didn’t use often (*like Java, thinking that might have something to do with all the .js  files showing up) and then I took off Chrome (which was being spawned into background activity, and even Firefox which was suspect.

That led to a read of the Mozilla warning on the Java Deployment Toolkit.

To continue, I downloaded a fresh database for Sophos Virus Tool, and decided to let it run overnight.   No soap.

Again (now into Sunday morning) there was no virus found and our files that were just removed had appeared in the hidden user directory.  The files count was up to something like 255,000.

Screw it.

Time to format: c:  And format d: as long as we’re at it…and up comes the fresh copy of Windows 8.1 off DVD kept for just such an emergency.

Of course, since I had already used it once on a test basis, when I answered the “How many times has this copy of Windows been installed?: question honestly  (two), Microsoft cut me off at the knees as I was getting 8.1 configured on this machine….

And that, in turn, led to a half hour on the phone with Microsoft tech support getting the installation properly blessed from Redmond.  Yes it was off that old laptop, yes, only one the one computer in the living room now, and how’s the weather in the Philippines?

Lessons Learned

The first one is a “my bad” in that I hadn’t set the media server up for a user logon with Win 7.  Now, it takes a real logon.  6.3113  weeks to hack by one tool.  I oughta be dead by then..

Second is that I’m suspicious of all the new file synching between machines.  When I fired up the (properly blessed) version Win 8, I discovered that it presented me my Samsung portable screen from another room.  This is where I became seriously schizophrenic.  I’m a different person at every computer now.  So is Elaine.

Good news and bad; yes it’s nice to have that level of synch, but Gaye and I being Old School (H/CF gen) used to believe in the “sneaker network” and isolation of machines to keep one always ready.  Even this regimen has failed, though, with the advent of things like StuxNet which can even infect flash drives and such.

Is there no mercy in these attacks?

Third:  Use one computer for shopping and one for real work.  We’ve lived by that one for a long time.  This whole sordid affair started when Elaine was shopping for a particular doll (from Germany) for our granddaughter up in Tacoma.  She’d gotten a warning and did a removal of a virus, but was everything removed?  A beer-bet on the side says no.  Seems virus criminals are getting better and deeper into two and three levels of add-ons.  F’ers.  Nested viruses.

Four:  Do data backups.  I’ve got something approaching religious fervor going on this one.  With all the data from that machine backed up (and rescanned and isolated) it was a no-brainer decision to wipe the drive and install 8.1 which has more data execution prevention than Win 7.

Every week, a different hard drive is installed in our Big workstation.  It is rotated to a shelf with companions. I may add a pure virus scanning machine to make sure the back-ups are clean.

Yes, when Win 10 comes out this summer, we will spend whatever it takes to do an upgrade, or at least buy a couple of copies so we have them hot and ready when the next a—hole virus prick unleashes their sh*t on my weekend.  (Think I’m mad?  Who?  Me?  Hell yeah!).

Somewhere in here I’m going to get Holier-Than_Though crap from Mac users who claimed for the longest while that Macs were immune.  BS.  See here.

The mobile crowd gets a bit uppity, too, hollering about how Androids don’t get viruses.  But looksee here:  I call BS and offer another link (there are  tons of them).

There is not a bulletproof operating system out there.  As soon as a new one comes along, here come the viruses.

I’ve left out many steps (have you ever updated your router software, for example?  How simple is your network logon?)

You turn is Coming

When comes to computers, there are only two kinds of people in the digital world:  Those who have been hit with a serious virus and those who will get hit.  It’s only a matter of time.

As luck would have it, I’ll be on Coast-to-Coast with George Noory tomorrow night talking about my old ebook Broken Web which can still be found on Amazon.  But the context of the “Digital Anarchy” that I’ve been telling you about for a long time is actually right here, right now (as Jesus Jones sang it).

As the cold dawn arrives, the stark reality of human “progress” rolls by:  One upon a time we had small tribes of people that periodically went to war. 

Mostly, the wars were waged by men for various spoils (including breeding stock and food).

Over time, the tribes got bigger and were called “countries.”  They went to war for the same reasons.

But the real “improvement” in war came as places like Dresden went up in fire-storms as did Hiroshima and Nagasaki…those two just needed less “lighter fluid.”

But that’s when the civilian populations became fair game. 

Even that was a semi-acceptable regimen, but then came others to fan the digital warfare and what we have are the roving bands of digital infidels beginning to hold populations hostage. 

And credit where due to government, since government got involved in the digital brushfire wars and turned it into an art-form.

Check out the recent book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter.

As little as I trust government, I trust roving bands of digital anarchists even less.  Mostly megalomaniacs with compilers.

I’m  HUGE fan of S-Curves – and I’ve been following the progress of world-leading S-Curve advocate Cesare Marchetti for years.

In his paper “Looking Forward, Looking Back: A very simple mathematical model for very complex social systemsMarchetti explains the importance of learning as much as you can about S-Curve because they absolutely work.  In doing so, they put history into a comprehensible form:

“Now how can I, puny David, say that all this can be done, and with the left hand? By pure luck.

Twenty years ago I stumbled on the right stone and fell, face down on the right equation. Stone and equation have stood there for eons. I only provided the falling body. I must add, however, that having been educated as a physicist, I derive a special pleasure from contemplating universals and,
like a truffle pig, I can smell them underground.”

If you want a short course in thinking like Marchetti (and me to a large degree) go read all of his papers over in his archives.

Once you do that, you’ll perhaps better appreciate it when I report to you on how “innocent bystanders” like Gaye and me can catch a few “incoming rounds” – and being wounded by the encounters (bleeding out a good bit of time) tell you things like  “Prep for Digital Anarchy!

You see, a sneak EMP attack resulting in the need for Faraday cages, incoming comet fragments or Planet X – hell, even not-yet occurring Global Coastal events  – are statistical dust specks compared to the likelihood of getting whacked by a virus, having your personal information stolen, and not being able to recover promptly and get back to work.

There’s even a way of looking at the global financial crisis as a financial-variant of this digital anarchy which instead of attacking the phones or desktops of traders, attacks the underlying algorithms that drive markets in high-frequency trading. Push button market collapse, anyone?

As I told Peoplenomics readers recently, the threat potential of the script-kiddies is immense.  Worse?  We’re just at the very beginning of the S-Curve on this one.  Every phone, every network, every computer, every SCADA system in the world is a target.  Today, not some unspecified date in the future.

We are nearly to the point where it makes sense to legalize drugs but make deployment of malicious online scripts a Class 1 Felony.  The one, it could be argued, is a victimless crime.  But other?  I just lost 2+ days to it, and a buddy of mine lost 8-hours.

When you steal someone’s time, you’re in effect stealing part of their life.

Time to change up and augment Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) with Computer Abuse Resistance Education (C.A.R.E.).  Friends don’t let friends write, compile, and launch viruses.

All in favor of turning virus creation into a felony, please raise your hand?  Capital crime?

I’m that guy with two hands up.

Write when you break-even


11 thoughts on “Coping: Grist for the Truly Paranoid–Computer Prepping”

  1. I have a dell with win 8. I always turn my auto updates off but occasionally I turn my system on, only to find MS ( spawn of satan) updating my sys anyway.

    Is it a good idea to have the auto updates off ? It usually screws some app up & I have to do a remove/ install to get it back to normal. Plus I have a huge genealogy program on it. It is backed up but it would take weeks to replicate.

    I hate MS but find a MAC (the BORG ) just too expensive.

  2. Awe George,
    Think of virus attacks as a “Business Model”. If hackers couldn’t do their dirty malicious deeds, then software companies would loose money. There are big bucks to be made with anti-virus software companies.
    Who is really responsible? The company who made your computer? What happens when a tube fails repeatedly in your HF set? The radio company replaces it free, or you buy a new one. And when something like brakes fail in everyone’s new cars? Company recall!!!
    I personally think that Microsoft and Apple are fully responsible for hacker/virus problems.

  3. Yo Ure,

    Appreciate the story on the unsavory digital demons! Tried both links on the Marchetti data and both came up “Website unavailable”. Any ideas?

    PN subscriber and lovin’ it…

    Happy New Orbit!

  4. Having the same problems here, George. Been “cleaning” my regular work computer for a week and a half. Ran CCleaner for five days’ straight and gained back 100 G of hard-drive space and deleted 6 million files. But yet, just two days later with hardly doing anything on the computer at all since cleaning it, ran CCleaner again and had another half-million that were deleted. Coincidence? Nah, I don’t believe it that anymore.

  5. I’ve had good success by turning off scripting. I build my computers. Simple to do so I still use XP and own the cd. I used to have all kinds problems til I turned off scripting. It’s difficult to tell you what to turn off but most active x should be killed permanently. Go to Internet explorer>tools>internet options then on the tab>security. Click open the custom level for security settings. Turn off activeX scripting and java applets. What do you know that runs activex? Microsoft’s java(sorta). I don’t use it. I believe this is the biggest hole in the operating system. Active x ties into every part of your system. I use Firefox and for some reason I believe that scripting gets through unless you turn it off on IE. I don’t know why. There’s what 20 gazillion lines of code. Even microsoft doesn’t know what’s in there. I had a problem getting the plug-in in control panel that opens the drive partition tool to open on XP. Spent two days doing all this stuff microsoft told me to do, Nothing. Went and fixed another problem. It works. They don’t know.

    The next computer I build it’s going to be PCBSD for my operating system.

    It the exact opposite from microsoft. Microsoft easy to get going hard to keep going. BSD hard to get going easy to keep going. I’m going to learn one operating system for life and stick with it. Microsoft for some reason changes everything around every time they have a new version so I might as well.

    You should look at some of the features. Jails provide 100% back-up that can be changed into. So you can experiment with one jail, have a back up with another and run one as normal. Hard core file system. BSD is what runs the web. It is hard to get started though. Drivers are a problem and is what’s keeping me with microsoft now. Next time I’ll buy my hardware to fit and should be good.

  6. Since 1987, we’ve only had Apple computers and never have had a virus, nor have family, also with Macs… NEVER! If time is money, enough said.

    Do people realize words are spelled out and stating specific words one is casting a spell upon others, just like the weather “forecaster” trying to create the weather…. Glad their spells are wrong most of the time, with personal energy canceling out general spells. If everything is a frequency, we vibrate what we desire. And yes, you can clear the clouds and stop the rain.

    HaPpy New Year!

  7. I think when mine goes down – next time – it will be the end of the internet for me. I’ve been buying a new computer about every 4 years. I’m going back to reading paper books. much less discouraging and I’m sure my pile of Karma will stack much higher without this bear.

  8. Thanks again for the remarkable timing of your post, George. Went to task manager and found CPU usage at 50% by jusched.exe (Java) when NOTHING was being done on my computer, and also that 3 G had been ate up from my hard drive just since this morning’s cleaning. You pointed this piece of the puzzle out just in time and happened to be exactly the issues I was having with mine. Makes you wonder when Java (Oracle) has that window that opens up and says “running on billions of devices worldwide.” Kind of scary when you think about it.

  9. “When you steal someone’s time, you’re in effect stealing part of their life.”

    I have been saying that for 40 years, My wife always thought I was nuts for saying it. Nice to finally see someone else who thinks the same way.

  10. how odd, wondering where my comment went I added yesterday…must be your viral computer …. no worries I save my comments.

    Since 1987, we’ve only had Apple computers and never have had a virus, nor have family, also with Macs… NEVER! If time is money, enough said.

    Do people realize words are spelled out and stating specific words one is casting a spell upon others, just like the weather “forecaster” trying to create the weather…. Glad their spells are wrong most of the time, with personal energy canceling out general spells. If everything is a frequency, we vibrate what we desire. And yes, you can clear the clouds and stop the rain.

    HaPpy New Year!

  11. Yeah, George any OS can be hacked, I think everyone would agree on that. I’ve been running Linux since 04 and though it was a steep learning curve for me, I kept with it. Glad I did. Although any sys can be hacked, likelyhood also appies. Last Win OS? 7(dual boot). Viruses? Oh, yeah…common occurance…no matter the precautions…Anti-malware(s), site blockers,AVs,windows mal tools, cookie tools. Since running Linux: 0. I do run an AV on Linux…so I don’t pass mal/virus to Win users, but thats it, no other ‘security/mal’ programs. Haven’t found anything I could do with Win, that I can’t do on Linux…and for free.

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