Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Computer(s) And "Friends"

And again it was a customer's email that brings forth another post on this blog; thank you G. G. With his kind permission here is his email:
I recently have run into a situation about which I don’t know what to do.

For the last few years I have occasionally let a friend, who does not have a computer, use mine.  This would be a few times per year.  Basically he wanted to go on Craig’s List, so he used my second address, with his own password for a Craig’s List account. I didn’t really question what he was doing, because I know one can sell and buy on Craig’s List.

What I found out is that he was posting sexually explicit ads on Craig’s List.

While the screen shows all the ads have been deleted, I cannot figure out a way to get them off of my computer.  An email to Craig’s List was of no help, it just told how to delete the ads, but not how to permanently remove them from my computer.

I’m finding this to be a difficult situation, not only because of the mechanics of getting rid of something I don’t want on my computer, but because of the personal factors involved with someone who was a friend, and trying to weigh in if that relationship can be continued.  Any help that you can give will be appreciated.  

And here is my reply:
Dear Mr. G,

I have heard of similar situations like yours and you have my sympathy.

To your question about cleaning up your computer: I can most likely help. I can try to do that via remote support or in a house call, that is your choice. Although since sexually explicit material is involved I would strongly prefer a house call. Working locally on the computer will allow me to disconnect the computer from the Internet which will allow deeper analysis and cleaning and protect the computer and your Internet connection from eavesdropping.

Additionally and because you asked me I will voice some general ideas:
  • NEVER let a "friend" or relative (children, teenager, nephew/niece, grandchildren!) use your computer in/with your regular user account.

    If you are a "normal" home user you most likely always work in an administrator account; that can incur added risks.  If you follow this link to the explanation of administrator account please ignore the outdated line "Applies to Windows Vista". These basic concepts apply to all modern operating systems.
  • For other people on your computer always create "standard" user accounts.
  • NEVER trust that anybody will behave responsibly and that they will follow basic rules of safe computing.
  • NEVER let anybody (and not for ANY reason) use an identifier that is tied to your person (email account). It may happen that you will have to answer to the FBI if the person for example uploaded child pornography.
  • Only allow any third parties (whether visitor or family!) to use your internet connection (wireless network, cell phones, tablets a.s.o) when you can be certain that your internet connection is secured beyond browser and operating system based measures.
    One option of several is described here.
Above advice may seem harsh but consider your situation. Naturally I can not "advise" you on how to handle the situation with your "friend".

My very personal and for you irrelevant opinion is that this person has proven beyond doubt that he is not a friend, maybe not even an acquaintance worth my time. But I am certain you will find your way of dealing with this aspect of the situation.

Additionally and independent of all the preceding I want to ask your kind permission to re-work your question and my answer into an article on my blog. What has happened to you is so "typical" that it lends itself to wider attention. Naturally your text would be quoted completely anonymously.
So much for the customer's letter and my response.

All the above was meant to be the whole post on this issue and then the heavens made me meet with a friend who had given his computer to someone when last fall they were on a hunting excursion.

In this case there are no sexually explicit materials involved but the computer was majorly infected with PuPs, this nasty new kind of malicious programs that I talked about here and here. And here are a few more examples of how we get tricked to allow this stuff to be installed.

I want to add here that you should never activate the Guest account that you find in many versions of Windows. Crooks and hackers know about this account and will be happy to exploit it if they find a computer with activated Guest account.

Update 2/19/2015
I forgot to mention that all good will and the best intentions by us and by others are null and void if my
10 Commandment of Safe Computing are ignored!

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

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