Protect yourself from ransomware

It’s still big business for crooks, most of whom have switched from the “Nigerian Prince” letters because it’s a far easier way of generating money.

your-money-or-your-data

An employee gets an official-looking email about an invoice or a spreadsheet. They click on the link. Boom: all your data is encrypted, and you have to pay 2 Bitcoin (about $1,500.00) to get it back (and sometimes you don’t.) You lose business, and the ultimate cost ends up being much higher.

There are two main lines of defense against ransomware: Backup and Education

1 – Backup

If you’re not backing up your files, you’re vulnerable to data loss, which can cost you big time.  Many people back up their files manually to an external drive. And that’s good, but there are problems with this system.

  • It’s hard to remember what files have been modified on any given day
  • It’s easy to forget to do your backup
  • A local disk is susceptible to theft or damage, or can fill up.
  • You can actually back up corrupted files if you’re not aware of when the infection took place. The nasty thing with many ransomware viruses is that they start to encrypt your files, and only give you the popup warning after the process is complete.

I recommend a cloud-based, dynamic backup system; I use Carbonite™ (and I’m not a paid shill for the company.) For the roughly 11¢ per day that the service costs me, I do whatever I need to on my computer and sleep well at night, knowing that if there’s a disaster of any sort – ransomware, hard drive crashes, fire, theft, you name it – I can get my critical data back. I once had a hard drive crash without backup, and it cost me over 3 grand to have a forensic data specialist retrieve my files (a ripoff, Seagate would have done it for half the price, but that’s another story.)

2 – Education

Educate yourself, and educate your friends, family, and employees. People click on things without thinking, and that’s never been good computing practice. It’s more important than ever to be careful about links contained in emails.

Have a look at this selection of emails that I received just this week:

Subject: Payment Information

Good afternoon. Thank you for sending the bill.
Unfortunately, you have forgotten to specify insurance payments.
So, we cannot accept the payment without them.
All details are in the attachment.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_6F839240

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 4215 189 115


Subject: Urgent

Our accountant informed me that in the bill you processed, the invalid account number had been specified.
Please be guided by instructions in the attachment to fix it up.


Subject: Urgent Alert

We have detected a suspicious money ATM withdrawal from your card.
For your security, we have temporarily blocked the card.
All the details are in the attachment. Please open it when possible.


Subject: Delivery status

Dear Client! Our delivery department could not accept your operation due to a problem with your current account.
In order to avoid falling into arrears and getting charged, please fill out the document in the attachment as soon as possible and send it to us.


Subject: Invoice for 893547 21/11/2016

This email confirms that your goods have been dispatched. Please find attached your Invoice in PDF format. Please note this document will only be sent in electronic form.


Subject: Attention Required

Our HR Department told us they haven’t received the receipt you’d promised to send them.
Fines may apply from the third party. We are sending you the details in the attachment.

Please check it out when possible.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_CE576080

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 5458 175 571


Subject: Please Pay Attention

Greetings! Informing you that the contractor requires including VAT in the service receipt.
Sending the new invoice and payment details in the attached file.
Please open and study it as soon as possible – we need your decision.


Subject: Insufficient funds

Dear info,
Your bill payment was rejected due to insufficient funds on your account.
Payment details are given in the attachment.


Subject: Important Information

Dear info, your payment was not processed due to the problem with credentials.
Payment details are in the attached document.
Please check it out as soon as possible.


Subject: Please Pay Attention
Dear info, we have received your payment but the amount was not full.
Probably, this occurred due to taxes we take from the amount.
All the details are in the attachment – please check it out.


Subject: Please note

Your tax bill debt due date is today. Please fulfill the debt.
All the information and payment instructions can be found in the attached document.


Subject: Urgent

Dear Client! We have to inform you that payments for contractors’ services were insufficient.
Thus, we are sending the report and the amount details in the attachment.


Subject: Order #9406386

Dear info, sending the receipt for the order #9406386.
You made it last week. Please check it out as soon as possible.
The receipt with all info is in the attached file.

Every single one of these came with zip file as an attachment. And every single one would have downloaded ransomware to the computer of anyone who was careless enough to open the file.

There are some red flags here:

  • My company address is “info@abc.com”, and most of these emails start out as “Dear info.”
  • The English in many of these emails is unnatural or grammatically wrong.

And yet people will still open these emails, and still click the attachments. If businesses take data security seriously, every employee will be given training on how to recognize data threats.

Please be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Don’t be fooled by work at home scams.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that affiliate marketing works. From what I can see, it’s possible to function in this niche in an ethical and profitable way, if you’re willing to work hard at it. Unfortunately, it’s a highly unregulated area, and where there are few regulations, there will be many willing to take advantage. Here’s an example of the worst kind.

blog-spam

This ad appears almost daily, spammed as a comment by a user who changes their name daily (most likely using a spambot) at the Dilbert™ comic website. The webmaster doesn’t seem to care, so these comments hang around forever, generating a click or two from the uninformed or the unwary.

If you click, you’re taken to this page:

farticle

This is what’s known as a “farticle” (false article) or “advertorial.” Looks real, full of bunk. Wow, you think, I can make money at home like “Kelly Richards” (not a real person, not a real story. If you click on the “get started” link, this is what you get:

home-jobs

Notice the “social validation” links above. Yes, some work-from-home opportunities may have, at some point, been featured by the entities above – but it’s a sure bet that this one is not one of them. And, you’ve given the spammers your name, email address and phone number, which is gold for them – they sell this information to others.

searching

Searching for availability? Heck, you’d be qualified if you lived in Buford, Wyoming, population 1. It’s just the scarcity principle in action.

Your next page is this:

buckaroo

Act fast, there are only 9 positions in your area. This, of course, is a blatant lie – like everything else associated with this promotion. The long, long page gives you information about an exciting opportunity to make money posting links on web pages… which is the kind of thing that leads to the blog spam I included at the top. It’s really nothing more than paying $97.00 for a basic tutorial on affiliate marketing… along with the opportunity to be upsold on various expensive “training packages” and other add-ons.

I want you to look at this disclaimer that appears in tiny, gray print at the bottom of this website, things they post to try to skirt the possibility of lawsuits:

TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY READ AND AGREE TO PURCHASE TERMS BELOW BEFORE ORDERING:

We are not affiliated in any way with any news publication ? All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.
It is important to note that this site and the comments/answers depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This page, and the results mentioned on this page, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve on the same routine. I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS/THESE PRODUCTS, AND THAT THE STORY/COMMENTS DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

IMPORTANT CONSUMER DISCLOSURE
The term “advertorial” is a combination of “advertisement” and “editorial” written in an editorial format as an independent news story, when in fact the advertisement may promote a particular product or interest. Advertorials take factual information and report it in an editorial format to allow the author, often a company marketing its products, to enhance or explain certain elements to maintain the reader’s interest. A familiar example is an airline’s in-flight magazines that provide an editorial reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies.

As an advertorial, I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS PROGRAM, AND THAT THE STORY DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site. This program is not a job but an educational opportunity that can help individuals learn how to earn money through their entrepreneurial efforts. Anyone who decides to buy any program about making money will not necessarily make money simply by purchasing the program. People who think “I bought these materials so I’m going to automatically make money” are wrong. As any type of education has so many variables, it is impossible to accurately state what you may expect to achieve, however, people who bought the program not only bought the program, but also undertook additional training and education, applied the principles to an area of the market that was growing, kept their commitments and continued to learn. If you do what the individuals depicted did, you may generally expect to achieve a great education in the area of your choice, but you should not expect to earn any specific amount of money. Typical users of the starter materials that don’t enroll in coaching, don’t keep their commitments and don’t implement what they learn, generally make no money. Though the success of the depicted individual is true, her picture and name have been changed to protect her identity. Consistent with the advertorial concept, the comments posted in the comment section are also representative of typical comments and experiences which have been compiled into a comment format to illustrate a dialogue, however, the comments are not actual posts to this webpage and have been compiled or generated for illustrative purposes only.

We are not affiliated in any way with CNN, WebTV, News Channel 1, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News or FOX, and all such trademarks on this web site, whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.

In effect, you are being told: “This is not a real story. This is not a real person. We’re using the names of big media outlets fraudulently. You probably won’t make any money.” That’s a big fat red flag right there.

One of the tricks affiliate marketers use is to post multiple articles around the web that will pop up if people search for “Is Home Jobs Now a Scam?” or “Can you make money with link posting?” Invariably, two things will happen:

  1. The writer will tell you that [System X] – whatever it is – is a scam, and
  2. At the end of the article there will be a link to their affiliate marketing program. It’s a nested loop that never ends.

As I mentioned above, I’m not trashing all affiliate marketers. But be very, very careful getting sucked into paying for worthless opporunities that will cost you money rather than make money for you.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

This movie is what 3D was made for.

strange1

As a kid in the 60s, Dr. Strange was one of my favorite characters. And it hardly needs to be said that his Grand High Excellence Mr. Cumberbatch is perfect for this rôle.

strange2

This was the film that absolutely begged to be done in 3D, and while many films have tried with varying degrees of success to bring a new dimension to the screen, the result here was, to be blunt, breathtaking; a good summary of why is found at CinemaBlend.

I will spoil nothing, but I was desperate to see this before the 3D version left the theatres; I missed Pacific Rim that way, and I think my experience was poorer for it. Today I got my chance, and it was worth the drive to a neighboring city.

There’s a lot to love about this film; the effects, the story, the music, and a fun little fillip of anticipation at the end (oh yes, that’s the only spoiler I’ll leave here – don’t leave before the credits have rolled.)

It may not be for everyone… Strange was truly one of the stranger Marvel characters in the canonical universe. I’m powerfully pleased by what they did with this film, and look forward to more coming down the pipeline.

I’m a huge fan of Mr. Cumberbatch – I think he’s one of the most versatile and gifted actors of the present day. This film did nothing if not raise him in my estimation even farther.

If you haven’t seen Dr. Strange, see if you can find a 3D showing near you. I think you’ll find the experience was worth it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Have you noticed that the search function in Windows 10 really sucks?

What a difference from Windows 7. Half the time I’ll search for something I know exists in my libraries, and Win10 won’t find it. I ask for a search only in my desktop, and it will search the whole drive. Even a file that’s clearly there won’t show up, either with a name search or a content search. Pfaugh.

Edit: “Everything” is not designed to search file contents, but it still works like a dream on filename searches, with endless options.

Enter “Everything,” by Voidtools (aka David Carpenter). A tiny 400K program, works like greased lightning. Check it out. It’s free (but he appreciates donations.)

everything-search-window

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Images of the Middle East – Félix Bonfils

In the process of researching something else (this is how it usually works, and don’t even mention TVTropes)…

the_problem_with_wikipedia

… I encountered this lovely group of photos by Félix Bonfils, a French photographer who was active in the Middle East in the 1800s. They are available in many places on the Internet, but I found them captivating and felt like they were worth a share.

image6

Street vendors

image4

Western Wall of the Temple, or the Wailing Wall

image5

Group of Bedouin women

image3

Western Wall

image2

Western Wall

It looks as though some of these images may have been staged, others appear more or less candid – but they capture beautifully the feel of an age gone by.

To see more of Bonfils’ work, just do a Google image search for Felix Bonfils.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Now it’s the “EU Business Register.”

 

To: redacted
From: EU Business Register <register@eubusinessreg.com>

Subject: Business Register 2016/2017

 Dear Madam/Sir,

In order to have your company inserted in the EU Business Register for 2016/2017, please print, complete and submit the attached form (PDF file) to the following address:

EU BUSINESS REGISTER
P.O. BOX 34
3700 AA ZEIST
THE NETHERLANDS

Fax: +31 205 248 107

You can also scan the completed form and attach it in a reply to this email.

Updating is free of charge.

The scam continues, which I referred to here and here. Making another quick reference to it for additional exposure in case people are searching the web to see if this outfit is legitimate.

It is not. It is a total scam.

Very little has changed. Their spam emails, blasted all over the world, always say “updating is free of charge.” But the small print, ah, the small print:

THE SIGNING OF THIS DOCUMENT REPRESENTS THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS AND THE CONDITIONS STATED IN “THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR INSERTION” ON THE WEB PAGE: WWW.EUBUSINESSREGISTER.EU. THE SIGNING IS LEGALLY BINDING AND GIVES YOU THE RIGHT OF AN INSERTION IN THE ONLINE DATABASE OF THE EU BUSINESS REGISTER, WHICH CAN BE ACCESSED VIA THE INTERNET, ALL IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONTRACT CONDITIONS STATED ON “THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR INSERTION” ON WEB PAGE: WWW.EUBUSINESSREGISTER.EU.THE VALIDATION TIME OF THE CONTRACT IS THREE YEARS AND STARTS ON THE EIGHTH DAY AFTER SIGNING THE CONTRACT. THE INSERTION IS GRANTED AFTER SIGNING AND RECEIVING THIS DOCUMENT BY THE SERVICE PROVIDER I HEREBY ORDER A SUBSCRIPTION WITH THE SERVICE PROVIDER EU BUSINESS SERVICES LTD. “EU BUSINESS REGISTER”. I WILL HAVE AN INSERTION INTO ITS DATABASE FOR THREE YEARS. THE PRICE PER YEAR IS EURO 995. THE SUBSCRIPTION WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY EXTENDED EVERY YEAR FOR ANOTHER YEAR, UNLESS SPECIFIC WRITTEN NOTICE IS RECEIVED BY THE SERVICE PROVIDER OR THE SUBSCRIBER TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE EXPIRATION OF THE SUBSCRIPTION. YOUR DATA WILL BE RECORDED. THE PLACE OF JURISDICTION IN ANY DISPUTE ARISING IS THE SERVICE PROVIDER’S ADDRESS. THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE SERVICE PROVIDER, EU BUSINESS SERVICES LTD AND THE SUBSCRIBER IS GOVERNED BY THE CONDITIONS STATED IN “THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR INSERTION” ON THE WEB PAGE: WWW.EUBUSINESSREGISTER.EU

So if you enter your data and send it in for what you think is a “free listing,” you’re agreeing (at least on paper) to shell out €2985 for a three-year listing, and agreeing to be billed every year forever unless you cancel in writing.

Fear not. If you get stung, just write and tell them that you’re not paying. Quoted from my previous post:

If you happen to fall for this, these things will happen:

  1. The company will ignore any attempts to contact them
  2. If you simply refuse to pay, you will begin to get aggressive and threatening communications from a “global debt collection company,” Waldberg & Hirsch. That firm does not exist – it’s just the same drones trying to frighten you into paying. They will demand payment in full for the agreed-to three years, but will settle for one year’s payment if you’re foolish enough to send it.

The solution:

  1. Just ignore them. They can’t sue you, because they are running a scam, they know it, and they don’t want to attract legal attention to themselves. Never pay these gong-farmers a cent; ultimately they’ll go away.

Again, why the Dutch authorities have not managed or taken the trouble to shut this scummy operation down is incomprehensible.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

An open letter to Trump: Stop the hatred.

Edit: Just after posting this, I saw that Mr. Trump had said something like this on “60 Minutes.” That’s good… but it’s not enough. A targeted  and specific message is needed.

Dear President-elect Trump:

trump1

I don’t know if you concern yourself with events on the ground among the “little people.”
In the week since your election, the news has been full of some terrifying and truly disturbing events. In a list compiled on Twitter by Insanul Ahmed:

  • Students as Southern Illinois University put on blackface and posed in front of a Confederate flag
  • A group of guys yelled, “Time to get out of this country, Apu!” at a Middle Eastern-looking man at a gas station
  • A woman wearing a scarf was told, “Your time’s almost up, girlie.”
  • A Trumpkin pulled a knife on a Muslim woman near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • A white person called a black man a “nigger” and said he should be picking cotton
  • Students at Lehigh Valley High School were chanting, “Cotton-picker, you’re a nigger”
  • A white man approached a woman who appeared Mexican and said, “I can’t wait until Trump asks us to rape your people and send you over the biggest damn wall we’re going to build. Go back to hell, wet back,” and threw his cup of water in her face while flipping her the bird
  • A group of white men followed a woman wearing a dress onto the subway, yelled, “Grab her by the pussy!” and then proceeded to do so
  • Students at Wake Forest University were running around shouting, “NIGGER!” inside the residence halls
  • A group of white men confronted a black woman at a gas station and said, “How scared are you, you black bitch? I should just kill you right now…you’re a waste of air!” and another said, “You’re lucky there’s witnesses or else I’d shoot you right here.”
  • A black woman in Queens, NY was asked to go to the back of the bus
  • An LGBT couple found a note on their car saying, “Can’t wait till your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016”
  • High school teens yelled at a black woman to go back to Africa
  • A white man told an Asian woman at a gas station, “We won. Now get the fuck out of my country.”

Whether it was your intention or not, whether you want to admit it or not, you started this firestorm of hate with an implicit message that immigrants, Muslims, or anyone who is “other” or “less than” are not welcome in this country.

☞ And only you can put it out. ☜

I’m probably not wrong to suggest that most of your supporters are as appalled by this kind of behavior as I am. That these are the acts of the lowest common denominator of ignorance, hatred, and willful stupidity.

But these acts of horror are being committed in your name. And as President of our nation, the buck stops in the same office occupied by Harry Truman. With you.

There is only one way to stem the tide of this horror, which will only increase as the bigoted and the ignorant become more and more emboldened by the message that they heard during your campaign.

You spent countless millions of dollars courting the discouraged, the forgotten, and the disenfranchised, demonizing your political opponents. It is time to get in front of those same people who voted for you and personally tell them that acts of racism and hatred are not part of your platform. That they need to stop. That if they don’t stop, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for hate crimes.

You’ve got the money, and for you it would be chump change. Get that message out there.

Do this, and even though I didn’t vote for you, you will have taken an important step to becoming “my president.” Do it not, and there is no way you can be president for “all Americans.” Do it not, and you will reap the whirlwind in a political backlash that you and the GOP may not recover from during this century.

The Old Wolf has spoken.