Thursday, April 27, 2017

Voices Inside My Head #2

I am getting thoroughly sick and tired of hearing from "Steve from Microsoft" calling me at all hours, with his Indian accent and repetitive line of bullshit...

Dear Microsoft,

You have a problem. A very big problem. And you need to address it...right fucking now.

Allow me to explain:

Every few months, I receive a torrent of phone calls from some South Asian dickhead claiming to be calling from the "Microsoft Support Center". While giving them full credit for effort, it's obvious that they are not what they purport to be. The giveaways?

* I rather doubt that Indian parents are naming their children "Darrin", "Dusty", "Jordan" and "William", just to name a few of the top repeat offenders.

* We have this wonderful little thing nowadays called "Caller ID". It does this amazing thing where it not only displays the phone number that has dialed mine, it also identifies the source of the call. So, when I get a call from a number that has an area code of "152", and the Caller ID represents the source of the call as "The College of Staten Island", and does not say "Microsoft" or "Redmond, Washington", I'm pretty sure it's NOT Microsoft.

* The call always follows the same pattern: "Jason" informs me he's calling from "Microsoft Support in..." (often giving another false location that doesn't match the Caller ID) to tell me that my computer has reported a "serious security issue" that requires immediate attention. My computer manages to do this, amazingly, even when it's been turned off. As in "not turned on", as in "not presently functioning".

* This "serious security issue" is always mysterious: "Philip" or "Justin" from Mumbai-by-way-of-Peoria-with-an-Indonesian-Area-Code cannot answer the following questions, ever:

1) What is the nature of the "Serious Security Issue"?
2) Was there an error code or system message associated with the "Serious Security Issue"?
3) What program module within the Operating System issued the "Serious Security Issue" message?
4) How did the computer, currently powered down (because it's my habit to turn the thing off when I'm not using it), manage to contact "Brian", "Augustus", and/or "Charlemagne" in Bangalore-by-way-of-East-Woody-Buttfuck-Texas-with-a-Chinese-Area-Code?

Asking these questions results in two outcomes:

1) Having been caught, "Reginald" hangs up.
2) "Victor" and/or "David" gets more persistent, and will start pleading with you that he's really, really for real, and he's here to help me.

By "help me" what "Heathcliffe" really means is "activate my Remote Access Doohickey" which will allow him to fix the problem, remotely, from a remote location in the remote hinterlands of Remoteness, which means he's asking me to fix a "serious security issue" by creating another "serious security issue", i.e. giving a total stranger access to my computer, probably from a secluded cave in the Hindu Kush.

* "Bob" never has the correct information about me, or my computer. Apparently, my name is "Edward" -- so I'm not even who I'm supposed to be in all of this drama -- and I'm running an older Microsoft operating system, on an ancient computer, that hasn't been supported by Microsoft since Steve Ballmer (is he even who he says he is? What's his area code, and what Godforsaken bit of the Earth is he calling from?) worked in the Mail Room.

Usually, I just hang up on them. I haven't the time for this bullshit. I'm a professional: I have 32 years of experience with all things computerized, and used to run and program complex systems that make your Microsoft-fueled PC look like it's a cheap facsimile constructed of Tinker Toys and Lego Bricks. I'm a former Systems Programmer, well-versed in several computer languages, well-familiar with the principles of Operating Systems, how they're constructed, and how they do what they do.

In other words, I'm a fucking expert, and if there was something wrong with my computer, I would know about it long before "Archibald" in New Delhi could make the call from Davenport, Iowa, and claim to be in Budapest.

Occasionally, I get in the mood to fuck with these little bastards and give them a taste of their own medicine. A typical exchange (you will have to imagine the Indian accent, as Blogger does not include accent-replication tools):

"Hello? This is "Gregory" from Microsoft Support. I am calling to inform you of a very serious security issue affecting your Windows PC."

"Thank GOD you've called, Gregory! I was wondering what had gone wrong! You wouldn't believe what's happened here!""

"Yes, Sir, your system has notified us of a very serious security issue, and I am here to help you resolve it."

"Oh, good. I wasn't sure how I was going to resolve it. I mean, between all the beeping noises, and the bells and whistles, and all the error messages, I can't make heads or tails of it. It's all so confusing, Gregory. You're my hero."

"Thank you, Sir. Now, what we need to do is activate your remote access facility application...."

"My what?"

"Your remote access application. it will allow me access to your computer so that I can fix this serious security issue."

"Wow! it's fucking AMAZING what we can do these days, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. Are you in front of your computer, Sir?"

"Gregory, before we go any further, do I have to turn the machine on?"

"Yes, Sir. It would be helpful."

"Right...just give me a minute to turn it on, and boot up...oh, shit...I've forgotten my password. I just changed it yesterday, you know."

"That's no problem, Sir. I can give you an Administrative Password."

"Good Man, Gregory! Boy, I would have been screwed if it weren't for you! Okay, I've entered the password, Gregory. Now what?"

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I don't seem to be getting access to your computer...".

"And you won't, you fucking moron! By the way, I've been tracing this call -- don't worry how, you wouldn't understand, since I'm a professional --  and have pinged the servers you're using to make it. When I finally nail your location down -- oh, look! Lahore, Pakistan! How quaint! --  I'm calling whatever passes for authority in your neck of the swamp, and I hope they lop your fucking hands off, Jerkoff."


It's obvious what's happening here.

Someone's computer has been hacked. The hackers went back to mine it again, and found they no longer had access, either because that computer and account no longer exist, the machine and Operating System have been replaced, and they're operating off of old information, including names of people who are no longer here -- in my case, "Edward" is deceased, but his name is still on the internet/phone account -- and his old computer has been relegated to the dustbin (after I disabled it by the simple expedient of ripping out the motherboard and smashing it with a hammer -- but I still have the memory chips, disconnected and in storage --  and disabled the disk drive by pouring maple syrup and sand into it, and then turning the machine on.

If they don't get access to the same machine they've always had access to, they are hoping the person on the other end of this fake phone call will be dumb enough to grant them access either through panic or stupidity. Often, "Andrew From Microsoft" is planting "ransom ware" on your computer, this is software that will prevent your computer from working until you pay a ransom to a random account to have it removed (if you're lucky).

Cybercrime and Identity theft are serious things; they are the biggest categories of crime on Planet Earth today, surpassing even old favorites like murder, rape, and armed robbery. And the rate at which they occur will only continue to rise, as we pass out of the Era of The Internet of People (Facebook, AOL, text messaging, and so forth) and enter the Era of the Internet of Things, in which your entire life will consist of a world of "interconnected devices", so that your refrigerator will be in constant contact with your Electric Company, your smartphone will interface with your HVAC system, and your car will be connected to (eventually) a nationwide-network that will monitor traffic flow, provide GPS info, track your movements, and end up in a system of remotely-controlled driver-less vehicles that will move goods and people autonomously.

And even if someone doesn't get DIRECT access to your computer, they can find various "back doors" into your shit through Wi-Fi connections, your garage door opener, your home security system, or that brand-spankin' new washer/dryer you've just purchased which has the ability to call for maintenance all by itself, or tell you  via text message when the laundry's done while you're out getting a post-yoga latte via your smartphone.

Our continued desire for convenience and addiction to technology is leaving us vulnerable, and if you think this is a minor annoyance, try fighting a bank or insurance company that says you owe them money for purchases you never made, the government when your Social Security check goes missing, or Law Enforcement when you get scooped up in a Kiddie Porn bust, because someone stole your identity or you were stupid enough to use credit cards or do your banking online.

Sometimes, the best security measure is not being a lazy dumbass.

So, for all my friends out there, you need to do some very simple things to protect yourself.

1) NEVER accept a phone call from "Microsoft"where the caller id doesn't say "Microsoft", or seems to originate from a strange place. For example: Microsoft will not call you from a number identified as "Joe's Plumbing Services, Inc".

2) Never allow access to your computer (or any electronic device) to someone over the phone. Unless you are dead certain of that person's identity, you are never dead certain of that person's identity.

3) Stop using WiFi in Starbucks, or on airplanes, or wherever. Even if it's "Free". There is no such thing as "Free". By "free" what the provider means is they aren't asking you for money, but they are collecting and mining your personal information and selling it to whoever shows up with a check.

4) Stop visiting Clickbait sites. You know, the ones that make you go through seventy pages of nonsense just so you can learn the "True, Inside Story of Full House That Was So Shocking The Producers Never Wanted You To Know!". These sites have two purposes: the first is to draw eyeballs so that they beam advertising into your brains, and the second is to plant various forms of malware on your computer, so that someone else can spy on you later on, or collect more information on you and your internet habits.

It goes without saying -- NO "FREE" INTERNET PORN.

5) Do not use bank cards, debit cards, credit cards, or bank account numbers online. Ever. No matter how good the security claims to be, or no matter how much easier shopping online is. If you want to purchase things online, use pre-paid credit, debit or gift cards, to limit your liability in the event of identity theft. If you have a pre-set limit to what you can spend, so do the thieves.

6) Protect yourself with firewalls, good anti-virus software, good ad-blockers, pop-up blockers, ad-ware scanners, and anything that continuously scans and blocks incoming data or communications that you don't approve first. Learn what "plug and play" is, and learn how to turn it off. Educate yourself on your computer, how it works, and how to defend yourself from scams. Keep up to date with the latest alerts from Microsoft, Kaspsersky, McAfee, etc;these are intended to let you know about newly-discovered threats. Take them seriously.

7) For God's Sake change your passwords, regularly. And don't do something stupid, like use your dog's name, your birthday, your Social Security number, your address, etc. The purpose of a password is to RESTRICT access. These hackers are quite good, nowadays, and they have access to tools that are amazing, and they also have access to scads of personal data about you. It's only a matter of time before they "crack" the code of your grandchildren's birthdays, or the day you got wounded on Iwo Jima, or discover the name of the pet canary who died 25 years ago, and thus, crack your password. Choose passwords that do not reflect personal information, as these are the easiest to crack. Random words and numbers work better than some variation of "KatiesGrandma", and even then, there's no guarantees. Some of these guys are THAT good.

8) Stop filling in Internet IQ tests, online application forms, "free quote" applications, or signing up for newsletters, websites, and whatnot, just so you can give that last commenter a piece of your mind and then never respond again. When you close an online account, make sure it's really closed, whether it's a bank account, an e-mail account, or your internet subscription to "Adorable Cats in really Bad Christmas Sweaters" monthly. Everywhere you go on the internet, and everything you do leaves breadcrumbs. All those stray breadcrumbs attract ants...and sometimes, rats.

I fully intend to send this missive off to Mr. Ballmer in Redmond, Washington. If Microsoft is not taking this issue seriously, then that is a crime against it's customer base. Doubly so, for it initially put the customer in a position to be annoyed and exploited in this fashion by failing to do adequate QA before shipping it's products (this has been a staple of Microsoft's strategy since the very beginning: it doesn't do a rigorous QA evaluation before release of anything: it simply releases software with inadequate testing, and then just responds to the complaints. The initial release becomes the QA).

For all that, they still manage to create a (marginally-) superior product. (all you Apple people can suck it).

But this is a dangerous thing, and it needs to be stopped. I know Microsoft issues press releases every so often on this very topic, but it doesn't seem to have lessened very much. My tormentors will disappear for a few months, and then return to ring my phone every day for a week.

Fortunately, no idiots live in this house.

However, I know too many of you, and I'm certain I cannot say the same for everyone's home.

Voices Inside My Head is a regular feature providing insights into the Superior Mental Process of Your Galactic Overlord. 


USCitizen said...

Awesome rant. (DMF sent me.) Thanks

Matthew Noto said...

Ah, Diogenes Middle Finger strikes again! I love that site, used to have things cross-posted from my own sit (the Lunatic's Asylum) to DMF. You guys are good people over there!

Thanks for visiting, and tell your friends, please.

Your Overlord

Anonymous said...

Very interesting but for the most part good common sense. I always bait the call centre jerks when they call. btw I bounced over here from DMF and I'll be back. cheers

Mike aka Proof said...

I came here from DMF, too. I got a call from "Steve" just the other day. Whenever he calls about a problem with "my computer", I ask him, "Which one? I have three." That usually confuses him enough to throw him off his script.

ooonaughtykitty said...

They call me too. I usually say... "I don't have a computer". They freak out. "WHAT?! You Don't have a Computer??" click