The Scammers Keep Trying

Image result for sextortion

I don’t get much spam these days with Gmail, their filters are pretty good at sifting out the chaff. But I still have an account with another provider that lets a few things through.

The first one I saw this week was the old “Nigerian Prince” ploy, it amazes me that people are still trying this one.

Hello

I am contacting you to see if we can make a business together, My names are  Suvo  sarkar the Chief Executive Director of Emirates NBD  in United Arab Emirate  U.A.E. I discovered a dormant account with a holding balance of US$63M in the bank where I am working in United Arab Emirate U.A.E, Actually I do not have to involve myself officially because of my job and position in the bank, but I know what will be required to release the fund to you as I will present you as next of kin to the inheritance. I know all about the depositor who has passed away leaving no beneficiary to the account he deposited the funds.

Please get back to indicate your interest so I can give you the full details of the transaction for us to commence immediately.

Best regards,
Suvo Sarka

By now, everyone should know about this kind of thing – but just in case, this is 100% pure bull manure – there’s no money, you’re  not next of kin, and if you respond, there will be “taxes,” “fees,” “bribes,” “administrative stamps,” and other things to be paid until you run out of money, time, or patience.

These people are criminals, thieves, bad actors with no conscience and no morals. Many of them justify their theft by saying to themselves, “The White Man plundered our country, it’s only fair to take their money.” Others are just evil men with no conscience. Do not interact with them.

The second scam, commonly known as “sextortion,” was more interesting, I had not seen one of these before.

From: nightmarе <bogus_email@phoney.com>
To: <redacted>
Subject: You are my viсtim.

Hi, my prey.

THIS IS MY LAST WARNING!

I write you because I put a virus on the web page with pornography which you have viewed.
My trоjan caрtured аll your рrivate dаta аnd switсhed on yоur сamеrа whiсh rеcordеd thе act оf yоur solitаry sex. Just аfter thаt thе trоjаn saved your contact list.
I will erаsе thе cоmрrоmising videо rесords аnd informаtiоn if you send me 750 USD in bitcoin.
This is address fоr pаymеnt : 1PLtH8HPHQLboeFvrBN2XJPJz99TxayGCo
I give you 30 hours after yоu opеn my mеssаgе fоr making thе payment.
Аs sоon аs you reаd thе mеssаgе I’ll sеe it right аwаy.
It is nоt nесessаry to tell me that yоu hаvе sеnt mоney to mе. This аddress is connectеd to yоu, my systеm will еrased autоmаticаlly after transfer соnfirmatiоn.
If you nеed 48h just Opеn thе calculatоr on yоur desktор and press +++
If yоu don’t раy, I’ll send dirt tо all your contасts.
Let me remind you-I sеe what you’re dоing!
Yоu cаn visit thе policе officе but anybody cаn’t help you.
If yоu try to dеceivе me , I’ll know it immediately!
I dоn’t live in your cоuntry. So аnyоnе cаn not trаck my lосаtion еvеn fоr 9 mоnths.
byе. Don’t fоrgеt аbоut the shame and tо ignorе, Your lifе сan be ruined.

First:

This is sheer nonsense, blasted out to all and sundry with harvested or leaked emails in the hopes of catching a scared victim. Because some people do visit adult sites, and some people do have webcams, and it is possible for hackers to access these cameras remotely if people are foolish enough to download the appropriate malware.

Second:

  1. I don’t have a webcam, I don’t visit adult sites, and my computer is well-protected against malware, so all his noise about trojans and “compromising video records” are nothing but lies.
  2. Opening a calculator app and pressing “+++” could not possibly interact with an email program to let a scammer know that I needed 48 hours instead of 30 to send him his blackmail money.
  3. You can go to https://bitcoinwhoswho.com/ and look up bitcoin addresses like the one the scammer lists above. According to the report generated, this particular address has been reported multiple times for fraudulent activity, always the same sextortion scam but often with varying messages

Ransomware that encrypts your data is a different kind of beast, and it is more prevalent, and easier to be affected by even if you don’t visit infected websites. Don’t open attachments from unknown senders, regardless of how innocent or official they may look. Verify first.

This is an example of a ransomware scam:

From: “Troy Almaguer” <bogusmail@bitbucket.com>
Subject: Wire Transfer
To: <redacted>

Did you authorize a wire transfer to our accounts?
We have acquired a sum of USD $2000,00 from your bank account and we do not understand what the funds are for.
We do not have any purchases with your firm that we know about. So why are you generating settlements to us?
Please see the attached remittance files and double check with your corporation and bank.
Password is 1234


[Attached Document with clickable link]

It looks really official, and an administrator, or assistant, or secretary might be easily fooled into clicking on that innocent-looking attachment. Don’t ever do it, you’ll likely end up with all your data encrypted and no way to get it back unless you have robust backups.

There are a lot of scumbags out there. Be careful, practice safe computing, and don’t let the criminals win.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

War is War and Hell is Hell

This image from the AP shows smoke rising over an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Far better minds than mine have wrestled with the ongoing violence in the Middle East for lifetimes, so I’m not really qualified to make pronouncements as a political pundit. That said, a comment I saw over at reddit resonated loudly with me:

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

This conversation from M*A*S*H was probably contrived by a scriptwriter, but I’ve quoted Alan Alda before and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had come up with it himself or at least had input.

Gaza is home to 1.7 million people, living in ghetto-like conditions that are difficult to comprehend for anyone not living in a war zone. 

Without any cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy, one can be completely in favor of Israel’s existence and security but still believe that the campaign of Palestinian suppression, ongoing settlement building in the West Bank, and the rejection of a two-state solution in the Middle East on the part of the Israeli government is inhuman and wrong. Sadly, voicing such an opinion almost always results in accusations of anti-semitism, but that can’t be helped.

Bibi Netanyahu has said:

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”


I think that’s completely accurate, but I also think that what is being perpetrated on the Palestinian people rises to the level of crimes against humanity, and somehow it has to stop.

In the name of all that’s holy, it has to stop.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Microsoft “no help” forums

Back in the early days of desktop computing, when WordPerfect was still the king of the hill in word processing, they had a Customer Support number. You’d call up, get in queue, and listen to a real-live “hold jockey” spin tunes, provide information about the software, tell you where you were in line, about how long it would take for your turn to come up, and then connect you to a helpful, qualified, American technician who would help you solve your problem. It was almost like being able to say “shibboleet.”

But ever since the early days of Microsoft, and I’ve been there since the beginning, getting any real help from them has been an exercise in futility. There’s an old, old joke about Microsoft’s technical support, and it goes like this:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications qquipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “WHERE AM I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.”

Sadly, things have gone downhill from there. These days, responses are not even technically correct. Some time ago we “upgraded” to Windows 10 – and those scare quotes are there for a reason – and my wife lost her old suite of games that used to come standard with the operating system, like Solitaire.

Here’s an example taken from a real live Microsoft Community page; I came across this issue today when I had the same question and was looking for help. Of course, it should be noted in passing that to ask questions or provide responses on any of these fora you need a Microsoft account.

The question posted was:

SOLITAIRE ON WIN10 – HOW TO GET RID OF XBOX SIGN-IN

I’ve downloaded Microsoft Solitaire Collection for Windows 10.

When I want to play a game, it presents me with a sign-in screen for xbox live.

I don’t want to sign in to xbox Live and have to go through several steps to get rid of the login screen and play as a guest every time I select Solitaire. How can I get it to stop asking me to sign in?


And here is the “featured response” from Microsoft Representative 
Syed Abdul Jabbar:

Hi [Name],

Thank you for posting the query on Microsoft Community. I am sorry to know that you are facing issues with Windows 10. Do not worry, will assist you with the issue.

If you’re looking for help with audiovideo and hardware driver issues while playing a game on Windows 10, you’re in the right place. 

For anything gaming or Xbox related, head over to the Xbox Forums& they’ll take care of you.

In future, if you have any issues related to Windows, do get back to us. We will be happy to assist you.

By the desiccated skull of Mogg’s grandfather, it’s like the responder (who supposedly represents Microsoft):

a) didn’t even bother to read the question, or
b) doesn’t speak English, or
c) is a bot, or
d) all of the above.

Many of the frustrated follow-up comments point out just how useless this response is, and my experience of Microsoft Community answers is almost uniformly like this. Either the answer is painfully useless, or the solution offered is so complex as to be incomprehensible by the average computer user. If I were the CEO of Microsoft I would be mortified to my very bones if I allowed this to be my customers’ experience. There is only one possible explanation:

Microsoft doesn’t care.

And they haven’t cared since day 1. They’re the biggest shark in the pond, and even though Windows’ market share has declined over the last 5 years from roughly 91% to 88%, they pretty much have the world by the short hairs and they know it, so there’s no sense in expending any resources on helping their customers have a useful, satisfactory experience with their product.

That’s not to say that there isn’t help on the internet – you’re just much less likely to find the answer you’re looking for on a Microsoft forum than in other places. As it turns out, in this case there’s no way to use the Microsoft Solitare Game Pack without an XBox Live gamertag, and the only solution is to head for the app store and find a free app that does the trick. Sadly, most free applications include ads, but at least I can avoid the ones that push you to make in-app purchases.

I think Microsoft made a bad move when they stopped including Solitaire, Minesweeper, and other games as integral parts of the operating system. As we’ve all seen, that’s hardly the only bad move they’ve made – think Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows Vista, and others – but I can’t ever envision a time when they ever start paying the price for their insouciance.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

My Facebook Manifesto

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Two suggestions I’d make to Facebook would be the ability to make a post “sticky” (so that it always appears at the top of my timeline) and the ability to disable comments for any post. That would pretty much solve a lot of issues I find with this online corner of my world.

Until that happens, however, I craft this little “manifesto” in an effort to uncomplicated my life a bit.

There are only so many minutes in a day, and only so much energy – physical and emotional – that I have available for use in moving my life forward and making a difference in the world before my earthly sojourn is over. I enjoy sharing bits of my life and my thoughts and things that I think are important or just ways to brighten someone’s day on Facebook, but endless political/social debates are draining and serve no purpose.

My online presence is essentially an extension of my home. I wouldn’t let someone come into my house and decorate it, in the words of Huck Finn, with “the ignorantest kind of words and pictures made with charcoal.” And while I have nothing against honest and meaningful exchange of ideas, the Internet has changed the way people interact – and I don’t have time to read or deal with the conflicting opinions of thousands of people. It’s just too draining.

So it comes to this: My wall is not a place for political debate. I will post things I believe, things that are important to me, and things I want to see happen in the world. Or sometimes just something to make others smile. If I see a comment appear on one of my posts or a link on my wall that I don’t happen to agree with, I’ll simply delete it – without fanfare and without response. This doesn’t mean I don’t value you as a friend or as a person – it just means that I’m doing some virtual housecleaning. If you have differing opinions, you have your own page: feel free to use it as a place to express those things that are important to you. If I’m interested, I’ll come over and see what the opposition is thinking. That said, sometimes (rarely) I get caught out posting something that’s patently false because it seemed plausible and I didn’t do my research. I’m always grateful for vigilant friends pointing out my folly.

It works both ways. Your wall is like your home, and I’ll do my best to keep my mouth shut if I see things you post that are not in harmony with my beliefs. My one exception to this is if I see someone posting things that are hateful, hurtful, bigoted, or abusive – in such cases I would have no compunctions about speaking out.

To me, this approach makes more sense than blocking or unfriending people whose friendship I value, and from whom I doubtless have much to learn in many areas – and it will help me to preserve my sanity in these most “interesting” times.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Cannabis: the case against decriminalization

Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018

☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜

A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.

If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.

Prohibition is Ineffective

We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis

The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol

The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.

“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.” (Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)

I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.

Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.

Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element

Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.

“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).

Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.

Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.

I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.

If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.

There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.

Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.

In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)

It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Not all Soy Sauces are Created Equal

I love Asian foods; Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Thai, you name it. And with many cuisines (but not all… not all…) soy sauce is either an ingredient or provided table-side as a condiment.

SOY

Long before I did any research at all, I knew that there was a stark difference between the two major brands that are commonly known in America: Kikkoman and LaChoy.

The first, my preferred sauce in the kitchen, is a Japanese-type sauce, brewed in the traditional manner over a period of six months (although traditional Japanese soy sauce can take 18 months to make, or much longer):

soy2

Fermenting soy beans and wheat at the Kikkoman factory in Wisconsin – from the July 1987 National Geographic article, “The Prodigious Soybean.”

The second is what’s known as a “chemical soy sauce.” From an article at Serious Eats by Jenny Lee-Adrian:

Chemical soy sauces: These are made over the course of about two days by hydrolyzing soy protein and combining it with other flavorings. Their flavor is far removed from traditional soy sauces made with fermented soybeans.

Harold McGee explains the process in On Food and Cooking by saying:

Nowadays, defatted soy meal, the residue of soybean oil production, is broken down—hydrolyzed—into amino acids and sugars with concentrated hydrochloric acid. This caustic mixture is then neutralized with alkaline sodium carbonate, and flavored and colored with corn syrup, caramel, water, and salt.

LaChoy is popular, but it’s pretty much in harmony with their old jingle ¹- “LaChoy makes Chinese food… swing American.” It’s what you’d expect to pour on a can of their store-bought Chow Mein. I’ve never seen it in a Japanese restaurant anywhere, they either use Kikkoman or one of the many national brands available now – even in traditional grocery stores. Somehow it just tastes… wrong. But as in all things, that’s just my opinion – and your mileage may vary.

National Geographic also has a lovely 5 minute video on how soy sauce is made in the town of Yuasa, Japan.

Another article at Yum of China by Tiana Matson lists some of her favorite sauces, most of which could probably be found at your local oriental grocery store if you’re fortunate enough to live close to one.

A lot of local Chinese places here in Maine provide little packages of “soy sauce” (those scare quotes are there for a reason) made by Kari-Out Co. If you want brown salt water with hardly a hint of anything else – think LaChoy cut to homeopathic levels – by all means feel free to use it.

5152o_to_go_kari_out_soy_sauce

As for me and my house, Old_Wolf_Sick.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 


¹ And, if you’re old like me, you might recognize the ubiquitous voice-over tones of Mason Adams (“With a name like Smucker’s, it’s got to be good!”) who was a friend of my mother back in the day.

And they say outer space is a hostile environment…

Some days it feels just like this.

  • The plug and the USB are always the wrong way.
  • The thing you are looking for will always be somewhere else.
  • Small, critical things you drop will roll to the most inaccessible place possible, or be lost forever.
  • The drill bit you need will be the only one missing.
  • Your foot will always find that one Lego™
  • Your toast will always land face down, especially when coated with honey.
  • Drawer handles will jump out and grab you.
  • The child will always start throwing up at 2:00 AM
  • Beams will crack you on the head no matter how low you think you’re stooping.
  • The cat will vomit in your shoe.
  • Furniture legs will inexplicably move when your little toe comes near.
  • You will trip on your shadow (Really! there was nothing else there!)
  • Dental work will be done poorly, and you will have to go back.

And whether or not you believe in biorhythms, sometimes all of the above seem to happen in a single day.

When it feels like the universe is verifiably out to mess my existence up, I strive to recall the original quote from Jenkin Lloyd Jones:

Life’s Expectations

“There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise….

“Life is like an old-time rail journey — delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Or I eat macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is good too.

Ṯ͔̪̟̫͇͕̘͕̥͓̞̮̩̝͕̹͈̗́͠h̡͏̜̞̦͔̣̤̲͖͉̗͖͈̘̝͙͕̗͟͡è̦̫͙̪̗̹͙̦̺̺͕͖͞͞ ҉͞͞҉͔̲͔̜̝͚͍̯̙̞͓͔̻͚̤̯̦O̶̦͙̫͔͚̰̳͕͚͙̹͡ĺ̶̰̼̮̗̬̱̻̩̲̺̞͙̣͚̯́́͜d҉̸̨͇̬̮͉̦̫̥̥̪̝̖̠̗̺̮͓͈ ̸͡҉̯̯̼̬͖̲͙̲͚̙͞Ẁ̥͍̜̞͍̙̗͉͉͙̭͔̤͇͈̻̰̖͞ò̴̡͓͈̩̱̪̖̗̀l̵̳͉̼̮̟͞f̷̷̶̡̦͙̫̪̫͓̯̰̮͕̬̟̹͖̤̭̦͚̕ ̶̧̠̰̹̺̜̩͕̳̲̙̲̤̥͞h̢͎̟͖͔̗͎̙͓̹͓̦̱̝̩̯͓̀͟ͅá̡̦͓̮̗̙̜̲̜͢͡͠s̬͔̹̩̦̼͇̭̳͕̖̞̤͈͎͎͞͞ͅͅ ̸̫̩͉̝̰̫̭͇̠̮̘̭̘̪͘̕͢͡s̶̰̼͇͠p̢̡͚͔̣͓͔͔̭̺̝͔̻͕̞͓̱̫̝͘͜ͅͅǫ̸̡̺̪͎̻̣͜k̮̬̳͈͖͘̕͠e҉̦̮̯̲̗̱͍̫̠̘̰̲̪̲͘ͅn̸̸͇̦̖̳̱̗͎͍̤͇̮͙͉̩̬͕͢.̶͖̹̗͍͕̘̰̹͎͚͎̖̮̥́ͅ