Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Computers make you stupid

In the past couple of days I've had nothing good to say about computers or the people in my company who rely on them. I'm the IT guy, so it's my job to answer the stupid questions. Believe me, I get a few.

Not to sleight anyone I work with, all are intelligent people who do their jobs very well, and are quite adept at living in general, but there are those who should never have graduated
past the manual typewriter. Consider that the disclaimer - I'm not slamming anyone here, but this stuff is all true.

Yesterday I received a panicked call from someone claiming their machine was infected with viruses. This caught me off guard - we use Macs, and viruses are extremely rare. Not that they don't happen, they're just rare. We are also on a VPN tunnel through our head office. That means that ALL our web traffic, emails, FTP transfers, server transfers and the like are within a closed network between Windsor and the head office city, 2,000 km away (I won't disclaim it). The firewall is intense. Corporate security is a paramount concern here, and nothing gets through alive. As a final wall, each workstation is individually protected, then there are the rules or use, which rival any large manual you can think up.

All this, and this person has a virus. I gave this person a quick succession of instructions beginning with pull the ethernet cord. Then, activate the virus scan and put the computer into auto-detect and auto-repair mode and walk away. These instructions were followed and this person understood that the afternoon was to be spent without a computer - it would take hours. I even covered the fact that our firewall is so secure that any virus most likely came from
some sort of removable media hooked up to that computer at some point.

This morning I received a phone call. The scans were done, and the virus threats minimized
(absolute zero actually). There were still warnings. Warnings I didn't understand. This person sounded like jibberish, so I indicated how to make a screen cap, and email it to me.

When I saw it, I fell over laughing.

I was looking at a website designed to look like your typical Windows XP desktop, with various warnings abound. This person was trying to follow the instructions on the screen and wondering why nothing was happening - it seemed to this person the computer had crashed.

We don't run Windows XP. We run Mac OS 10.4

Big difference.

It took a few minutes to make this very embarrassed person realize that he/she had been had by a phishing website. A site designed to scare you into buying their product with claims of YOU'RE INFECTED! CLICK HERE TO CLEAN YOUR SYSTEM NOW!

Which this person did, and the result was one panicked production manager, one embarrassed employee, eight hours of lost productivity, and a general failsafe warning to the entire company. That story is next.

This person closed off the browser, realized he/she was had, and cried a little. No harm really done, the idiot who designed that phishing site should sleep well tonight knowing that their evil plan worked. But, as I said, we run Macs. NOTHING on there would have been any use to us.

On to the mass mailing virus warning.
Knowing just how computer literate most of our staff are, I took the easy route and took a screen shot of exactly where to go on their own computers to manually start the virus definition updates (we have them set for auto, but I wanted to force the subject). I sent out a group message with the jpg attached, with the instructions that everyone was to follow this lead on their own computers to finish the task. Restart was necessary, blah blah blah.

Of course this was happening before I knew about the phishing site. The joke was on me.

I hit send and went back to work. Twenty minutes later I got a call that went something like this.

Person: I clicked where you said to and nothing happens, just a white box
Me: White box?
Person: Yeah, just a white box and it does nothing
Me: Exactly what are you clicking on?
Person: The picture you sent
Me: Oh my.
Person: Why isn't it working? Nothing's happening
Me: *&^@&!!!?@
Person: What's wrong?
Me: That graphic is from my computer, showing you where to click on your computer.

This person was opening the screen cap and using it to update virus definitions. I'm sure at that point that my attempts at making the instructions easier just crashed and burned. I made it worse. Within an hour, I had two more identical calls. Each of the three people thought that the graphic I emailed them was the actual program to update.

Easy mistake I guess, if you aren't a techno-geek. Again, I must make the disclaimer that there are intelligent people, just computers are not their forté.

I felt kinda bad. I thought about resending the instructions, but then it occurred to me, let's see how many more? How many more people should be issued old typewriters and allow me to free up their computers for other uses. No more, just the three.

Wow. I realized this morning just how computers can make you stupid. When too much is going on your thought process goes in three directions. You stop actually reading and following directions, all logic is lost (especially when the site is designed to do exactly that), and you start foaming at the mouth and mumbling incoherently. Computer make you stupid, and in the case of those who have to fix them and walk people through them, just a little bit insane.


PS, I got some funny answers to my question posted on my facebook about computer problems, here's a few...

Where is the "ANY" key?????? I've been trying to find it for a while now and I can't seem to, PLEASE HELP!!!!

OK, my screen is black. I lit a candle because of the power outage, and double checked all of my cords and stuff, but my screen is still black. Please help me.

So i made a bunch of mistakes while typing up my stuff and used liquid paper like i always do, but now i can't see anything on the screen, its just white. can you help me? i'm not sure what went wrong.

Every time I get a pop-up saying "you've got mail" I run outside to my mail box and it's empty ... what's wrong??

1 comment:

  1. That is the funniest thing I've read in awhile. The only sad thing is that, if it had been a PC and the person had responded, they'd have been screwed. I've had this happen to several clients. The scumbags who designed this scam are very good at evading even the best protected computers then scaring people (who assume they are valid warnings) into running the stuff and ultimately buying the fake anti-virus software, which then disables any legitimate security software and installs malware of all kinds on their system.

    And the final one where the person was clicking on the image - I thought I was gonna fall off my chair! But as you noted, this dopesn't necessarily mean the people who do this are stupid, just not very computer literate.


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