Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Cautionary Tale: MoneyPak Can't Buy Happiness

Engaged in my now standard morning routine of drinking coffee, perusing various online news stories, and navigating Facebook bromides, I was violently assaulted a couple of days ago. Without fair warning, my computer—access to any and all of its components—was snatched away from me.

While leisurely reading an article from a local newspaper, the words suddenly disappeared. They were replaced on my screen with a bloodcurdling notice from the U.S. Department of Justice, or so it said, informing me that my computer had been locked pending further investigation of criminal activities. However, I could unlock it for $300—payable via MoneyPak only—and perhaps stave off further investigation of what were some pretty serious crimes my computer and I were alleged to be involved in.

The U.S. Department of Justice was quite thorough here, I thought, in its decidedly chilling message. I was informed where I could purchase MoneyPaks—Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, 7-Eleven, et al. However, something rang a wee bit unethical to me that the feds could be bought off so easily. But then, this government entity made no iron-clad promises they wouldn’t proceed in the investigation after it got its $300 via MoneyPak. Giving me three days to pay this extortion to the U.S. Department of Justice may have seemed fair, but not when the due date was March 1st and I received the notice on March 26th.

Needless to say, I didn’t run down to Rite Aid, a nearby retailer that sold the U.S. Department of Justice’s preferred form—actually only form—of payment: MoneyPak. Instead, I shut down my computer, hoping against hope that all would be well when I turned it back on. It wasn’t, which didn’t surprise me. That hideous notice appeared before I could even put my computer into Safe Mode and try any number of things. For a non-computer savvy person, like me, I feared I might have to exercise the nuclear option—System Recovery—and begin anew. And, with my very old computer, that meant returning to prehistoric virtual times. It had happened to me once before and it wasn’t pretty.

The insidiousness of acts like this—anonymous, computer wrecking, and extortion of monies from the frightened and gullible—are downright sickening and more than a bit scary. The fact that these attacks come out of the blue—when we are blissfully going about our business—is a cautionary tale from the age we live in. What will tomorrow bring? God only knows. And, as for the persons behind these viruses—this particular one has been dubbed Ransomware—you deserve nothing less than being boiled in heart-healthy, hot Canola oil.

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