Archive for the ‘technology’ Tag

Ransomware is only scary if you follow its instructions   Leave a comment

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/sites/default/files/styles/the_breaking_news_image_style/public/computer-keyboard-locked-with-padlock-and-chain.jpg?itok=1zABEllq

…The only thing that it can really be compared to is coming home to your apartment and finding all the locks were changed. The landlord decided to randomly lock you out of your apartment and the only way he’ll let you in is if you give him the next six months’ rent. If you don’t pay up, within 72 hours, all of your belongings will be sold off to cover his asking price. That’s what being the victim of ransomware is like.

Let me put that another way. How would you react if you turned on your computer and saw this:

https://i2.wp.com/malwareremovalguides.info/images/Your%20computer%20has%20been%20locked.pngOf course, most people who see the “Go to <Retailer>” bit know at once it’s a hoax. Contrary to what conspiracy theorists like to think, and what ransomware scammers want you to think, the only way someone else can remotely access your computer is if you give them permission to do so: In no way can your computer do that on its own.

Let’s look at another screenshot:

https://i2.wp.com/static.ccm2.net/ccm.net/faq/images/27022-mpK0umfyHvs3mPUl-s-.png
No doubt the timer on the bottom is an attempt to show you the person who created and distributed the ransomware is serious. You probably figured out from the flag in the top-right corner this ransomware originated from Russia. That and the broken English. The next page directs you to do the same as the first: Go to a retailer, buy MoneyPak Cards and then read the activation codes over the phone to a member of the scam ring.

Here’s one more pic I saved for last on purpose:

 

https://sereneadventure.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/9ee61-fbi_computer_locked_1.jpg?w=1000

…According to the Anti-Malware site I pulled this from–more on that specific site in a bit–some variations of the above screenshot include a live feed of your webcam in a bid to show you the scam ring is remotely controlling your computer. This is all to get you to pay exactly as asked ASAP. Both this one and the first one will also display your IP Address, Precise Coordinates and a time stamp to prove the message is “legit”.

To answer the obvious question no, NONE of these are real BUT your computer actually IS locked. This type of Ransomware evolved over the last 7 years. From what I researched, originally you were only locked out of your browser. That was easy to get around by simply using an uninfected browser on the same computer and then downloading and running the necessary programs to remove the Ransomware.

Before we get into how to remove this Type of Ransomware, the obvious question is “Why do the scammers specifically request MoneyPak and/or iTunes Gift Cards?” The answer’s quite simple: Google Wallet. With Google Wallet, you can redeem an iTunes Gift Card’s balance as ACTUAL money, which can then be transferred to a bank account, PayPal account or another Google Wallet account. Google Accounts are disposable so…yeah. Once the scammer has the activation code, it’s impossible to get that money back. We’re talking losses to the victim and the retailer. The collected money is withdrawn almost immediately and the associated Google account deleted shortly afterward, making it very difficult for investigators to find out what happened to the stolen money. The retailer has no protection from this as they are required by law to refund the amount of the purchase back to the victim.

https://i2.wp.com/previews.123rf.com/images/raffalo/raffalo1108/raffalo110800007/10281895-Computer-keyboard-with-silver-chain-padlock-and-keys-relating-to-computer-security-or-parental-contr-Stock-Photo.jpg

This brings us back to the most important question: “How do I unlock my computer?” This webpage will show you in great detail. If your computer is EVER locked due to Ransomware, this webpage will ensure you WILL be able to unlock your computer free of charge and don’t get scammed out of money. I won’t recap what’s there so please go check it out. That said: Whatever you do, DO NOT DO WHAT THE WARNING SAYS. To those who are either elderly or not computer-savy, IT IS NOT THE AUTHORITIES. IT IS A SCAMMER BASED IN INDIA, CHINA OR RUSSIA.

Now, if for whatever reason you fell for the scam and sent money/codes, you need to do ALL of the following:

  1. File a police report. They will give you permission to have your bank refund the money back to your account.
  2. Notify the bank. Let them know you filed a police report because of the scam. They will work with the retailer to have the funds returned to your account ASAP.
  3. Go to the above website to find out how to remove the Ransomware.

Scammers are getting bolder and bolder. They are using autodialers to mass call thousands of people based in the US, Canada and UK with a story demanding payment “or else”. They will say whatever they think they need to in order to get you to send them money. DON’T do it. These scammers share info: If you fall for it once, they will give your contact info to someone else to get more money off of it. Don’t even dignify the scammer with a response. Just hang up the phone. DO NOT confirm your identity to them. They will simply pass on your info to someone else to try again later.

Digital Scams are here to stay but at the same time you still need to guard against phone scams, which have been making a comeback. Phone Scammers commonly use disposable cell phones or Skype accounts to make it very difficult to actually track them. Yes, most of them are based in India, Russia or China. It’s big business in all three of those countries because these countries’ governments aren’t doing anything about the problem–Russia needs no explaination and to a certain extent neither does China. It’s actually considered a legitimate business in India.

…No, seriously: Indian students can take college courses to learn how to be a part of a scam ring. They learn the ins and outs of the scam they will be doing and techniques to make their scam as authentic-looking as possible. The way they look at it, if people are willing to fall for it and give them money, it’s THEIR fault. They buy or work out of an actual office. On the outside, it looks like they run a legitimate telemarketing business but in reality it’s a scam ring. They are very well organized–some even go as far as buying property in the US so they can say they are based in the United States for when the BBB (Better Business Bureau) investigates them.

Again: This is a government sponsored business. The Indian Government doesn’t care as long as the “business” pays their taxes. As for how they get your contact info, it’s likely bought off the Dark Web or from other scam rings. The Federal government is well aware of the problem and would like to take a more aggressive approach but they’re not getting much support from the Indian government.

I don’t feel sorry for the scammers, who are doing it purely for the “easy” money. Neither should you no matter what story they try to sell you. They know full well what they’re doing is wrong and they could’ve chosen to do something else. If they want to blame someone, they shoulf blame India’s caste system their country refuses to let go of. I also blame tech firms and companies based in the US that sources their customer support from India to save money. THAT was a door we should NEVER have opened. Scam victims have been paying for it ever since.

Finally: Russian and Chinese scammers mostly target military and government employees as well as folks who work for tech firms. Most people don’t have to worry about them in comparison.

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Aurabolt’s Folly: The Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Games   Leave a comment

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1a/Pok%C3%A9mon_Trading_Card_Game_logo.svg/2000px-Pok%C3%A9mon_Trading_Card_Game_logo.svg.png

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091210041718/yugioh/images/a/a2/Yu-Gi-Oh!_Trading_Card_Game.gif

…I considered posting this on both my Anime and Game Blogs but I decided to post it on this one instead as a cautionary tale. Given this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of the Pokemon Trading Card Game, it feels fitting.

https://i2.wp.com/images.gamenguide.com/data/images/full/12844/magic-the-gathering.png

 

To start, Trading Cards have been around for some time though until about 30 years ago, they were strictly Sports Cards. Then Magic the Gathering came along. It wrote the book on how to make a successful trading card game. They are to the Trading Card Game industry what Everquest is to MMORPGs. Like World of Warcraft, only the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Games were able to emulate the success of the original. They were both introduced at the right time: When Anime and Video Games were becoming mainstream in North America.

Pokemon Red and Blue came to the U.S. in 1995. The Pokemon Trading Card Game (henceforth “Pokemon TCG” for short) was released the following year. What was originally intended to be just a means of marketing the Pokemon brand in the U.S. quickly become the biggest schoolyard sensation in America for almost a decade.

THIS is the original rare card kids spent hundreds on card packs to find:

https://i1.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/03169/charizard1_3169652k.jpg

Those lucky enough get one were revered as heroes to their friends and had a virtually unstoppable deck. It wasn’t until I played the Game Boy Color Pokemon TCG game in 2001 I fully understood WHY the elusive Stage 2 Card was so sought after: Its Pokemon Power (see above). As long as you didn’t run out of Energy Cards, Charizard was unstoppable. No one other Pokemon Card except the equally rare Chansey (120 HP) could take one attack from it and live. This has long since become widely accepted but to keep the game balanced, Wizards of the Coast (The manufacturer for the card game from 1995 to about 2002) intentionally did not make a large amount of Charizard Cards to encourage people to keep buying card packs hoping to get one.

…I consider myself lucky I was late to get in on the TCG bandwagon. I was in high school at the time and was more a collector than someone who was competatively playing against others. The rare cards I was looking for were promo cards that came with video games and movies. At my peak, I had close to 800 Pokemon Cards. This goes without saying but the reason the first Pokemon movie still stands and the highest-grossing Pokemon movie ever is because of the promo Mew card given to moviegoers with every ticket purchase. It made the news a month after the movie’s release: Folks would buy a ticket just for the card but skip the movie. Said extra cards would then be resold. I saw alot on eBay.

There was little kids wouldn’t do to get their hands on rare cards. Myself included. This is the first time I’m sharing this publicly but I stole 30 cards from a friend at a summer camp when I was 16 and yes, I got away with it. Not saying I’m proud of myself as I realized after I’d done it that I was taking the TCG way too seriously.

As for how I did it without ever getting found out, I did it like a professional: While everyone was swimming, I went in the locker room and took the cards out the kids’ binders (we were around the same age but I was the oldest). To deflect suspicion since I knew everyone would’ve (rightly) assumed it was me, I took my rarest cards out of my own binder and hid them. Naturally, the kids I ripped off assumed mine were stolen, too. Of course, I never brought any of my cards back to camp after that!

I’ll give Nintendo credit where it’s due: The Pokemon TCG was a damned good hustle. I spent somewhere between $200 to $300 on Pokemon cards from when I started in 1998 to about 2003. I retired for good in 2004 and gave away all of my Pokemon Cards to a student at a school where I worked in 2007. Best decison ever. Looking back now, I knew I was in too deep when I decided to steal cards from others. Never again.

 

http://www.cardmania.com.au/ccg/Yu-Gi-Oh!/ygologo.gif

…This brings me to the TCG giant of the last decade, Yu-Gi-Oh!

Holy crap. I’ll be real with you: I was hooked from day one. I’ll give Konami and Upper Deck credit where its due: They took the forumula the Pokemon TCG had been using and all but perfected it. The Anime starring Yugi Motou and his alter ego Pharaoh Atem (whose true name wasn’t actually revealed until the original  series’ finale) was used to sell the cards unlike Pokemon.

The cards featured in every episode of the Anime? You could actually get them yourself. Not only that, they worked exactly as shown in the Anime–minus the special effects, of course–and they were nowhere near as rare.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/pvO5pHtwrsI/hqdefault.jpg

Seto Kaiba’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon anf Yugi Motou’s Dark Magician. They are the most iconic cards even today yet Konami took the high road with both cards: They were rare in on TV show but in reality, they were obscenely common. One huge difference structure decks for the Pokemon and Yugioh TCGs have is while you only got one holofoil card in Pokemon, with Yugioh you got 3.

The iconic Yugi and Kaiba decks were upgraded a few years later to include powerful cards Yugi and Kaiba gained in the Anime. Even though the Anime series and the card game are not as big as they once were, no cards are more synonymous with Yugioh than these 5:

 

https://i1.wp.com/ep.yimg.com/ay/yugioh-card/yu-gi-oh-secret-rare-full-5-card-exodia-1st-edition-holofoil-set-5-secret-rare-gem-mint-holofoil-cards-4.gif

 

…Exodia the Forbidden One. Like the Holo Chatizard card, Konami and Upper Deck intentionally made The Exodia set in limited quantities for the sake of game balance. Given you automatically win simply by having all 5 cards in your hand, it only makes sense. LOL.

Moving on, unlike the Pokemon TCG I got into the Yugioh TCG specifically for dueling. Unlike with Pokemon, I got early and spent alot early. I’ll be straight with you: I spent $1200 on Yugioh Cards from 2002 2009. It stands as the most money I’ve ever spent on one hobby. World of Warcraft came close at $950 including expansions, paid services and other premium content such as mounts and pets. The difference is with Yugioh it was in a small amount of time but with WoW, it’s been nearly a decade in comparison.

At one time, I owned close to 500 Yugioh cards. The difference is almost all of them were used to make 4o to 60-card decks for dueling. I had a different deck for different themes. The funny thing is after I graduated from high school, it actually became harder for me to simply find people to duel against. My younger brother played off and on at the time. Sometimes when I picked him up from school, we’d walk to the library and play against folks there. And I was good. I did alot of trash talking and had the skills to back it up. Never did tournaments since they never came to Boston but after about 3 years, duels against me were quick when they ended in my favor.

I think it was around mid-2007 when I decided to quit the Yugioh TCG cold turkey. By then, I’d spent close to $500 on Yugioh cards off eBay alone so…yeah. By the way yes, I did own all 3 of the Egyptian God Cards too. Any card I wanted, I bought off eBay. Most I ever spent? $105 to buy the Exodia cards.

Looking back at how much of my monthly budget I was spending on both TCGs that I probably should have spent on other things was why I decided to quit cold turkey. Well, that and the value we collectors had placed on the  Trading Cards. Like fools, the majority of us truly believed the longer we held on to the cards, the more they’d be worth later. In reality, it was the exact opposite. We should have sold the cards when they were still considered valuable. The longer we held on to them, the less valuable they became. A fitting irony!

During my last semester at a community college, one of my classmates appraised the 100 or so remaining Yugioh Cards I showed him at the time to be worth a bit under $1000. I sold them at Anime Boston in 2010 and only got $10 for all of them. I honestly didn’t care as it was fitting and what I deserved given I’d been motivated by greed. It was a hard lesson but an important one I learned: Trading Card Games are a massive time and money pit and if you’re not careful, you might not be able to get out on your own.

The only TCG worth dealing with is Magic The Gathering but as I said already, I’m done with Trading Card Games period. Before folks ask no, I don’t have any more Yugioh or Pokemon Cards. I gave them all away years ago. The interesting thing is it also effected my viewpoint on physical video games, too. I used to buy and sell video games alot during the last decade. After I quit TCGs, I now only buy video games for keeps. I figure if I’m going to spend money on a hobby, it should be on something I know I’ll enjoy for years to come.

 

Someone Turn Up the Thermostat!   Leave a comment

It’s FREEZING ouside!

…Nah, I’m kidding.

Boston is undergoing something of a heatwave right now.

From June to September I mostly use my laptop. Given this is the first summer I will not be playing World of Warcraft since 2007 and the massive story updates I have to catch up on, technology wise I will be using my Laptops almost exclusively. It generates far less heat than my Desktop and my newer laptop’s cooling system is pretty impressive. Notice I said laptops in the plural sense. I still have my old one though I haven’t really used it since Christmas break. Despite its age (I got it in 2006) it still runs. Unstable at times but it still works.

I can handle the heat. I have all the social media apps on my iPod as well as my newer laptop (Windows 8 computer) and everything on my Desktop will run on my laptop. Both my 3DS and iPod have cameras on both sides so I can record videos on the go alot more. I can watch my anime on my Laptop as well as the Anime I bought form Xbox Live via my Zune Client along with Netflix so…yeah. No electric bill. $16 for Netflix in July and August combined (Instant Streaming is $8 a month). A whole bunch of reading and writing to catcch up on.

No problem.

Before I forget, I wanna shamelessly plug the best place for Ice Cream in Boston:

I like Coldstone, Emack & Bolio’s and Ben & Jerry’s but NONE of them can hold a candle to the hometown champion of ice cream. Click the picture to go to their website.

Almost forgot: I am now on Tumblr!

That’s not my Primary Blog but since I can’t rename my blog without deleting my account I’m just using that one for the time being. I will probably make 5 more over the weekend depending on things.

Microsoft wants you to pay $100 a year for Office 2013!   2 comments

Link: http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/29/technology/office-365/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Unlike the mid-90s there’s PLENTY of Open Source alternatives like Open Office and Libre Office, both of which I use on all three of my computers. The best part is they are 100% compatible with Microsoft Office documents and you can save documents in an Office format if you want as well. Since 2002 I’ve been asking those who buy the latest version of Microsoft Office this question: “Why pay over $150 for something knowing you can get the far more customizable Open Source versions for free?”

For those who don’t know, Open Source programs are developed with the intention that the user can use it any way they wish and they are also free to modify the program as they see fit. As a bonus they can they redistribute the modified program as a separate entity. That’s how Libre Office came about. It was developed by people who used Open Office and branched off. And it’s all 100% Legal.

Any and all updates are free as well no strings attached and the best part is in the case of Open Office and Libre Office, combined they use far less of your computer’s resources than any one of Microsoft Office’s applications. Microsoft wants consumers to pay $100 a year for MSO2013. That gets you regular updates and you can only install it on up to five machines per license. On top of that if you cancel your subscription you lose everything. They’re also going to release MSO2013 in the traditional format but that’ll cost as much as $400 and without the regular updates the subscription version offers.

Again: why pay that much for something someone else lets you do for free? Combine the above programs with Google Docs and you have no reason to do that. Not only that Open Office is 100% compatible with Microsoft’s Skydrive system (Web Version). I found out earlier today when I activated Sky Drive on my Desktop computer. Don’t get the wrong idea I do not work for Open Office or Libre Office. I’ve just been using them for ten years and have come to appreciate the more tranditonal route both programs take.  They sacrifice aesthetics for functionality and it shows.

From the looks of things Office 2010 will be the last one I ever buy from Microsoft. I just see no reason to justify the price jump personally.

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