05 March 2017

Lessons learned

I have been offline for over a week. Well, actually, my computer has been in hospital for a week.

My last post related that an evil thief had inserted a virus into my computer.

Now I know how, and what, it was.

It got into my computer when I made the mistake of clicking on what I thought was a recipe from a friend of mine. I didn’t know he had a cooking blog, and now, I know, he didn’t.

This person or persons got into my computer and inserted a Trojan horse virus in my Through the Bridle Lightly blog, by going through the desktop shortcut.

Don’t worry, you won’t catch it from reading this. Or even commenting, as you probably don’t have a shortcut to my computer. Once I realized my computer was infected, I disconnected from the net and took it to someone I thought would remove the virus.

It was in his shop for three days. He noodled around with it, but the moment I got it home and reconnected to the net, the virus re-inserted itself immediately. Not only that, it had morphed, changing to fit the situation. The original had been removed? But still, there were a few lines of code left that told the virus to mutate as it was under attack.

 The virus did a lot of searching throughout my computer. Fortunately, I don’t keep bank accounts, or things like my social security number on my computer. 

I then took it to a REAL computer repairman, who kept it for another three days. He removed the hard drive and put it on another machine, and within minutes of starting a virus removal program, the virus did the nasty job it had been created for: it killed my hard drive.

But, like surgery, that also made it so that it will never infect my computer again. The hard drive was already several years old, so I had a new one installed. That took care of the virus.

It also took care of all my settings. But fortunately, I back up my computer at least once a week. So I lost nothing but a month of work, and I’d not done much. The repairman was so grateful, he kept saying, thank you for backing your files up. So often someone brings an ailing or dead computer into his office saying oh my god, get it back for me, back up, what do you mean back up? Data recovery from a dead hard drive is almost impossible.

In the meantime, I’d purchased a new laptop. It had Windows 10 on it.

Without any more time wastage, let me tell you, do NOT go near Windows 10. It is worse than a virus. You know a virus is bad. But Windows 10 is even worse in that it’s just as controlling, it just doesn’t kill your computer. But it enslaves it. It is not yours. Windows 10 updates when it chooses, whether or not you have the internet connection that can tolerate hours and hours of updates.
10 has a thing called Cortana. Cortana is supposed to be an assistant, but what it really does is get in your way and insist on doing things the way Microsoft wants, not you. For instance, Cortana sends information on what you are doing online to Microsoft. Don’t want that invasion of your privacy? Don’t want to pay for that data harvesting? Tough shit. You are going to do it.
Writing, composing, etc? You now have to PAY a subscription in order to compose anything on your computer. No longer can you use Word. Nope, now you have to buy it.
Want to change the way things look on your screen? Nope, that is virtually impossible.
Want to search? You get bing. Bing is useless as a search engine. Microsoft wants to challenge Google, so created bing (I can’t bring myself to give it the respect of a capital letter). So you must go to cortana, type in a word that you want searched, it goes to bing which takes the information off of: Google.
Plus you get ads. Lots of them.
Don’t want them?
Tough shit. You are going to get them. They’re harvesting your data to sell to advertisers.

There are things they left in place: your choice of a thousand different fonts. How often do you use wing dings? Never? Me, too. I need two fonts, not a million. But no, someone in Microsoft has the clout to keep all those stupid fonts in your machine, taking up space. 

With 10, you also get bloatware. TONS of it. Programs you will never, ever use. The ones you DO want to use, you are now required to pay extra money for. Excel? Power Point? Gone…unless you pay. There’s a phony trio of processing programs but you only get them for 30 days. Then you have to buy them or spend extra money for the Office 360 ‘suite” for a lot of money.  
Let’s say you have a photo you want to send to someone in an email.
Photo Manager is gone. In its place is a thing called Paint. Paint allows you to crop, and change the color values. But you can’t resize it from a 2 MB picture to something manageable, like 800 kb. If you want to to do that, you have to BUY a program off the Microsoft “Store” (a wannabe Google Play Store) and pay a subscription…just to resize a photo. 

Want to shut it down? No “Start” button (which in itself was stupid…why “Start” and not ‘Shut Down”? You’ve already started the computer and Windows, “Start’ is illogical. But we’ve learned to click on the start button to shut down the computer.

But no more. Now there is a windows icon where the start button used to be, and you have to do two more steps to get the computer to shut down.
Microsoft doesn’t WANT you to shut down the computer. It wants to keep it’s greedly fingers in your machine at all times, to harvest data, to store WHAT? And to get more money from you.

What Windows has become is lucrative extortion, a way of getting you to shell out more money for what is already a useless program. It’s become so user unfriendly, so infuriating in lack of services, that I took my brand new laptop to the same repairman who had my trusty PC in his shop and said, Remove 10 and put Windows 7 on the laptop, as well as restoring it on the PC.

He did. Now I no longer have to deal with Windows 10.

So here is what I’ve learned, and you should take my experience as hard won advice.
1.   Back up your data. Today. NOW. Use an external hard drive that you can physically disconnect from your computer. Back up OFTEN.
2.   Never click on a picture in a blog that seems suspicious.I don’t care if you don’t ever click on a link in my blogs, probably I won’t ever put a link in again. I will instead write out the link to my Blogger blog, The Horse Mad Scientist. Please DO go to my Horse Mad blog, though. I’ve missed writing.
3.   Don’t put a shortcut on your desktop. Always type in the URL.
4.   Run virus and malware checks OFTEN. That’s how I found mine.
5.   Don’t pay for aggravation. Windows 10 isn’t worth it. Keep 7. They are supposed to keep updating it until 2020, and quite honestly, I hope by then, someone creates a Windows like program that doesn’t grab you by your heels to shake every bit of money out of you.
6.   Don’t keep passwords in a folder titled as such.
7.   Don’t keep financial or private information on your computer.
8. Change your passwords OFTEN. Make them difficult to remember (write them down!) and use symbols, numbers, upper and lower case letters. I know, it's a pain in the ass, but it's how my computer was so thoroughly invaded...I'd used the same password for many programs. Use a different password for each program/website/account, etc. 

Good luck. The thieves are getting craftier, better at penetrating your defenses. Even something as mundane as a horse oriented blog is no longer safe.

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