I happen to know a couple called Sharon and Mike. Good friends of ours over many years. This post is not about them.
I think I first spoke to Sharon some months ago when she ever so helpfully called me to say Microsoft had uncovered a virus on my PC.
I was quite rude to her - assuming it was Sharon. I actually cursed her. I don't mean swore at her, I literally cursed her. I believe in the power of blessings and curses and although I rarely curse, that seemed like an appropriate occasion.
She called again this morning. I was in a much better mood and so decided to handle the call differently. [Perhaps it was a different Sharon, would she really be calling me back again after I was so rude the last time?]
What's that you said, there's a virus on my computer? Oh My! Malicious software? Oh dear!
(She was so helpful, Sharon was. She said she worked for Microsoft and they had been informed there was a virus and dangerous software on my PC and she was calling to help. I listened with a degree of patience.)
Was my computer on? (She asked.)
I said I would turn it on.
(I went and boiled the kettle. My wife came down, a perplexed expression on her face from overhearing one side of the conversation.)
(I smiled and whispered and then went back to the phone.) Just a few minutes, maybe this is why my computer's been so slow...
(I made tea for my wife and No Caf for myself. (There's a story I've been meaning to tell about that but maybe later...))
(Then went back to the phone.)
Is the computer on?
Okay, I'm just going to transfer you to our support team. On the other side of the office.
(Sounds of chairs scraping across a floor. Whispered conversation. (We've got a live one?))
This is Mike. I'll be helping you today.
So kind of you Mike.
Have you got icons on your screen.
What can you see on your screen?
A hill. (Okay. I can be an annoying git. I admit it.)
(Silence.) Can you seen icons?
On the left?
Well, some of them are on the right.
What can you see on the screen.
(I struggle with this. What is he asking me?) A hill. (I answer.) And blue sky.
Okay. What operating system are you using?
Windows 97. (I used to get this answer a lot when I worked in IT support.)
Can you click on the four pane window button and hold down the R key.
(I actually lost him at this point. Four pane window button? Okay, I know how to answer that.)
What do you see?
The Start menu.
No, hold down the R key and press the Four pane window button.
(Ah, not something I've ever done but does this open the Run dialog?)
What do you see?
The Run window.
Okay, in the white box... (No need to be patronizing!) type www.
g o g l
/339bx [!!! Warning - I may have misheard the guy but on no account try typing that web address into your computer!!!]
Then this will take you to a web page.
Wow (I replied) You're going to have to spell that for me, that's a long web site address.
No. type www.go.gl/339bx (I think that was what he said and yet again - DO NOT TRY THIS ADDRESS AT HOME!) [P.S. If anyone had the time to help me set up a reverse hack to identify these people I would love to hear from you!]
Okay, have you done that...
(At which point my patience and sense of fun both evaporated quite quickly. Maybe something to do with the fact I'd finished my drink. Maybe I'd just had enough of wasting my time. Whatever, I dropped the act.)
No. You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to install a virus or malicious software on my PC! (I got quite snappy with him, this man pretending to be Mike. Pretending to help me while actually installing a Trojan or worse on my computer. Was he looking to steal my credit card details? My identity? Or maybe just turn my computer into a Zombie which could be sold to the highest bidder.)
Are you playing with me. (He asked. Yes, I had been. Wasting his time as he and "Sharon" had wasted mine except I wasn't also trying to steal anything from him.)
I hung up before he had a chance to and took a deep breath. I hadn't done any real good. Maybe delayed these scum for a few minutes in their attempts to break into my online world.
I didn't curse either of them this time, though maybe I should have. Perhaps I just couldn't bring myself to as what they are doing is no worse than GCHQ and the NSA. Hacking into our private lives. Stealing our data. Making our chance of online privacy that less likely.
My own Government, run by David Cameron and Nick Clegg (with the complicity of Ed Miliband) continues to demand the right to spy on me and you and my children because... Why? None of their reasons add up. The more they break online encryption the less secure my bank account becomes. The more the employ outside contractors to troll the Tera bits of data they accrue on you and I, the more likely it will get stolen.
Their protestations that Terrorists will be scared into hiding their illicit activities is a foolish sham. The real danger has always been from people who know how to hide what they are doing and those people are not going to be caught by sniffing every packet of data that is routed from here to the U.S.
As Isaac Asimov once wrote, Welcome to the goldfish bowl. Orwell warned that Big Brother is watching you. It doesn't matter how savvy I am in recognizing attempts to hack onto my computer. The State is already hacking my data right now and has been for years. It's enough to steal anyone's good mood.
The things he loves.
18 hours ago