Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Computer Issues

Yesterday I had a day filled with computer issues. I was completely off-line for the entire day. This is a big problem for me. I spend the majority of my days behind my computer: researching, writing, working with clients. If my computer doesn't work, I don't work. If I can't work, I can't make money!

It all started over the weekend when I discovered an erroneous post from old Twitter account of mine ( I had disabled it a couple of years ago) on my Face Book profile.  I once had that account linked to my Face Book but not any more. I have a completely different Twitter account now. On Sunday, I saw the following post on my Face Book profile from that old Twitter account: I just made $305. Click here!  First of all, I would never post something like that. I don't do internet get-rich quick schemes!

Immediately, I warned all my friends NOT to click the link because I did not post it and it could be a virus! I deleted the post and reported it to Twitter. The next day, a similar post appeared on my Face Book profile.  I can't even describe the sheer terror I felt when I saw it. Could I be the victim of a hacker? Why would someone want to do that to me? Yes, I use my computer for everything but I am pretty boring. I don't do large financial transactions on here, I don't store my personal info, I don't do my banking or transfer funds on-line. I usually only download programs or visit sites recommended by people I know.  Anyone hacking my computer isn't going to find anything other than thousands of vegetarian recipes. I do have a PAYPAL account but that's supposed to be secure, isn't it? WTF???

So, I did what seemed logical.  I tried to do a scan to see if I had any viruses or threats. I must admit, I don't do this often enough. Evidently, I didn't do it at all this year because I quickly discovered my virus protection expired last month. I renewed my subscription, did the scan and had 116 low risk threats. Low risk, high risk, I don't care! I wanted them off so I hit the FIX button.  I also thought it would be a good idea to delete items I didn't want or need because my computer has been operating very slowly lately.  Mission accomplished. I slept peacefully expecting EVERYTHING to be back to normal in the morning.

No such luck! My computer was operating at a snail's pace, freezing, or refusing to load anything at all. My internet connection was fine but Explorer was working slowly and sporadically.  My Twitter, websites, blogs and Face Book (my big links to the outside world) came up but I was unable to see anything, access anything, post or read any messages. All these accounts are linked together but I had changed my passwords and some security settings when I discovered that suspicious Twitter post.  What was going on now? I cleared my cache, disabled and enabled cookies, over and over again. I tried to restore everything back to an earlier date. No improvement. I assumed my Face Book had been hacked (because of that original Twitter post) so I decided to do the unthinkable: create a whole new Facebook profile and  deactivate the old one. I would lose all my friends, my business page and everything. OMG! My heart sank. However, when I tried to create a new profile, my computer wouldn't let me. Eventually, Windows refused to load at all.  I was getting all sorts of failure messages. What was I going to do now? If I couldn't fix this, I would have to buy a new computer. I really didn't want to do that!

I was so frustrated. I didn't want to be angry but I was getting there. I kept getting involved in little projects around the house to distract me. I figured if I kept stepping away from it for awhile, a resolution would eventually dawn on me.  Around nine o'clock last night it finally came to me: restore everything back to factory condition. This would delete everything I have on here but, my computer should function exactly the same way as when I first purchased it. I took a deep breath and hit RESTORE! This process took hours and I was a nervous wreck. When it was complete, my computer worked perfectly. I lost quite a few programs, documents and photos but overall-problem solved! I still have no clue what happened to my computer or if it was actually hacked but I learned a few lessons.

 Here's what I learned:

1. Exercise EXTREME caution when visiting unfamiliar websites.
2. Never download anything I am not certain is secure and trust-worthy.
3. Think twice before adding my email address to anything.
4. All those sites like Google and Twitter asking for my location- CLICK NO! People don't really need to know the location of my favorite restaurant, that I am shopping at the local Whole Foods, or which music venue I am at.
5. Only accept friend requests on Facebook from people I know or friends of friends. No strangers! SORRY!
6.  All those fun Face Book Apps? Each time I click on those, I am giving permission to some unknown person or group to access my personal information. No more free hugs, flowers, hearts, or finding out what year I am going to die!
7. Carefully review the profiles of those who are following me on Twitter and those I choose to follow in return. If they are unquestionable: ignore, unfollow or report them.
8.  Routinely scan my computer for threats and viruses. 116 THREATS! That's alot-even if they were low risk. A risk is a risk. We should take risks in life but we don't need to compromise the integrity of our personal information!
9.  Don't delete anything from the hard drive unless I'm absolutely sure I don't need it. If I am not sure- ASK someone! I think in my over-zealous deleting of programs, I eliminated something very important and essential from the actual operating system. BAD mistake!
10.  Back up my data onto an external drive. I never do this! I lost everything- including the novel I was working on. Thankfully, I printed it most of it but now I have to type it in all over again. The same with my precious photos. I never saved them elsewhere so now they are ALL GONE!
11. Clear my browsing history regularly. You can tell an awful lot about people by checking the sites and pages they visit. It's like going through their trash cans. I don't want anyone knowing personal details of my life unless I choose to share them.

I have to admit yesterday was quite a productive day, despite the fact I couldn't get any computer work done. I cleaned my house top to bottom ( a great way to channel anger), did several loads of wash, actually picked up the phone and TALKED to people rather than chatting on Face Book, put all my old papers and magazines out on the curb for recycling, and soaked in a nice warm bath (that's where the bright idea of restoring the computer to factory condition came to me).  I also took some preventative measures just in case my computer was hacked.

1. I called my bank to alert them to any erroneous, out of the ordinary charges.
2. I changed every user id and password to everything. And I clicked no when asked if I want that information to be saved. It's not that big of a deal to type in a password each time I access a site.
3. I put a password on my computer so no one can access it
4. I cancelled all my credit and debit cards and requested new ones.

I don't know if this will all help, but it certainly can't hurt. At least I rest a little easier now.

I am very happy to be up and running again. Now it's time to get busy so I can make some money!

And this is my Daily Cyn........

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