What I Learned From My Cyber Scare

So. I feel like a complete idiot. Like my friend MJ said, I got a cyber wedgie. I’d venture a step further and say I got a cyber wedgie by walking up to the bully and saying, “Please, sir, could I have a wedgie? An atomic one? Let me wait here while you gather the tools and the other bullies you’ll need.”

Because it was all my fault.

It turned out fine, however, and all is well. But yesterday, I wasn’t so sure.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, doing my Superior Dance, because despite being very busy, in the last few days I had caught up on all my emails and had tackled Facebook. I hadn’t been on Facebook lately but a couple days ago I was jonesin’ for some status updates from my ridiculously clever friends. So I read all 492 and vowed to keep up with future updates because they really are a bright spot in my day. For instance, if I hadn’t caught up, I wouldn’t have heard stories (yes, multiple) of how my friend Lynda ”” my adult friend Lynda ”” gets her underwear on wrong ”” really wrong. I wouldn’t have known how my friends handled the tornados and other bad weather thrown at them. I wouldn’t have heard how book signings/birthday parties/job searches/trips went. And so on.

Yesterday when I hopped on Facebook, before I read any status updates, I saw I had a message from a friend I had recently corresponded with. She said something like, “This is funny. You’ll like it.” It made perfect sense because we had been talking about something funny, so I clicked on the link … like a dope … and was taken to a sex site. D’oh. I wasn’t worried, though, because I’m on a Mac and use Firefox as my browser which is excellent at blocking unwanted stuff. But I immediately clicked out of the sex site and went back to Facebook, reading status updates.

I didn’t get scared until I saw the multiple messages from this same friend who sent me to the link saying she’d been hacked or virused or otherwise cyberly attacked. That’s when I slammed shut both Facebook and Firefox and started kicking myself in the butt. Not literally, of course, because I’m not that limber.

Then I went downstairs where my poor, beleaguered husband was drinking his coffee and reading the paper.

Here’s how that conversation went….

Me: Um … how bad do you think it is if I clicked on a link I shouldn’t have?
Him: [sigh] What exactly did you do?
Me: [channeling Lucy Ricardo] Waaaaaaaaaaa!

Okay, maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but that’s how I felt. However, since our business depends on computers working all day, every day, we have a Computer Guy On Retainer so hubbie offered to talk to him when he got to work.

I frantically tried to think of who I might have unwittingly dragged into this mess. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and got back on Facebook, sending a status update to everyone, hoping, unlike me, they’d see it before they got a message from me saying, “This is funny. You’ll like it.” Then I sent an email message to folks who aren’t obsessed with Facebook like I am and might, therefore, miss my frantic ALL CAPS WARNING. Then I called my kids, because, of course, they’ll open anything I send them because they love me and why would mom try to infect them with a computer virus?? Of course, my phone call woke up my daughter so I had to tell her 87 times, “Don’t click any links from me.”

I suspect she didn’t completely process the information till after lunch. “Weird. I had a dream last night where my mom called and told me, ”˜Don’t flick any dinks from me.’ Then she said, ”˜Don’t lick any minks from me.’ And THEN she said, ”˜Don’t pick any sinks from me.’ Even in my dreams she’s weird.”

My kids have heard a million times that they shouldn’t click on any links from someone they don’t know. But now these cyber bullies are figuring out that you will click on links from friends, thus hijacking your ”˜friend lists’ and your email addresses. And that’s why my hubbie told me not to feel like an idiot. But I still do.

I’ve always used Macs so I know they’re much safer than PCs in this regard, but I also know that neither Apple nor Steve Jobs can save you from yourself. Our Computer Guy On Retainer has a zillion layers of security on all our vulnerable PCs, but has always told us, “you don’t need to worry about your Macs as long as you don’t click on something you shouldn’t.” D’oh.

But for any of you Mac lovers, this is what he told us ….

“It’s probably ok. Unless she typed in an admin password, nothing could affect the system. There are no viruses for OS X and few trojan horses … so far anyway. Some of the Word Macro viruses are cross platform but are usually nothing more than an annoyance on the Mac.

If you want to check it out, download ClamXAV: https://www.clamxav.com/index.php?page=dl

Clam is an open source anti-virus application. It watches for suspicious activity and can catch Windows viruses in email and on disks even though they are harmless to the Mac.

Running antivirus software can’t hurt generally. If you set Clam’s Folder Sentry in the Preferences to watch the desktop and the Downloads folder it might catch an infected file before it was passed on to an unsuspecting Windows machine.

So far the only real malware for OS X that I’ve heard of is a trojan horse embedded in pirated copies of iWork ’09 and Adobe CS4 available on some Bit Torrent sites. If one were to download such a thing and run the installer, it would ask for the admin password as usual. But the installer has a nasty zombie net payload that lets the controllers direct and spy on your Mac from afar. Avoiding such things and being aware of what the application is asking when you are prompted for an admin password will protect you from all known threats right now.”

So we installed the Clam software and everything turned up clean, to my extreme relief. At that point, I knew I wouldn’t have any more ”˜splainin to do about my dopeyness.

But here’s what I learned, proving again that every horrible experience is yet another chance to get smarter.

• Nasty people that give you cyber wedgies make you feel really bad about yourself.
• When you’re on Facebook, always check status updates first.
• When I send a link I will ALWAYS say something specific about what it is. Like “watch this funny video about when David is all loopy after his dental visit” … or “here’s me at age 8 tap dancing and twirling batons of fire ”” how did that get on YouTube?!” … or “click here to be sent to a sex site.”
• When I get a link from a friend with cryptic or generic language, I will grill them … “where did you get this … what’s it about … am I in it?” before deciding to view it.
• I will continue to ignore links from people I don’t know.
• And maybe most importantly, taking a day off from your computer is, dare I say, lovely. I might try it every Wednesday. But without the cyber wedgie as a catalyst.

Have you ever received a cyber wedgie? How ’bout a real one?

0 thoughts on “What I Learned From My Cyber Scare”

  1. Harumph! Another Mac user with a superiority complex. Me and my cheesy little PC with over 10 years of use and NEVER A VIRUS. Or cyber-wedgie, or any other thing you can name.

    1. Well, in actuality, I didn’t have a virus or anything either. I just thought I had opened myself up to one. I do, however, still have my Mac superiority complex, thankyouverymuch.

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