It was traditional for BYTE magazine to include one bogus article in their “What’s New” section each year in the April edition. Here are two years’ worth that I archived in my “what the Hell” file. They’re interesting not only because of the gag, but to see what was actually considered new in those years. Ah, history… see if you can spot the bogus articles.
It’s interesting to walk down memory lane and see how far technology has come for real in the last 4 decades.
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.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
You have the last chance to save your social life – I am not kidding!! I give you the last 72 hours to make the payment before I send the video with your [indecent activity] to all your friends and associates. The last time you visited a erotic website with young Teens, you downloaded and installed the software I developed. My program has turned on your camera and recorded your [indecent activity] and the video you were watching. My software also downloaded all your email contact lists and a list of your Facebook friends. I have both the ‘Info.mp4’ with your [indecent activity] and a file with all your contacts on my hard drive. You are very perverted! If you want me to delete both files and keep your secret,you must send me Bitcoin payment. I give you the last 72 hours. If you don’t know how to send Bitcoins, visit Google. Send 2000 USD to this Bitcoin address immediately: 32u7BDdEb48LXNTDDTe9q9Nce5Z9QAJG1g (copy and paste) 1 BTC = 3470 USD right now, so send exactly 0.588241 BTC to the address above. Do not try to cheat me! As soon as you open this Email I will know you opened it. This Bitcoin address is linked to you only, so I will know if you sent the correct amount. When you pay in full, I will remove both files and deactivate my software. If you don’t send the payment, I will send your [perverted] video to ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES from your contact list I hacked. Here are the payment details again: Send 0.588241 BTC to this Bitcoin address: 32u7BDdEb48LXNTDDTe9q9Nce5Z9QAJG1g You can visit the police but nobody will help you. I know what I am doing. I don’t live in your country and I know how to stay anonymous. Don’t try to deceive me – I will know it immediately – my spy ware is recording all the websites you visit and all keys you press. If you do – I will send this ugly recording to everyone you know, including your family. Don’t cheat me! Don’t forget the shame and if you ignore this message your life will be ruined. I am waiting for your Bitcoin payment. Ma Anonymous Hacker
P.S. If you need more time to buy and send 0.588241 BTC, open your notepad and write ’48h plz’. I will consider giving you another 48 hours before I release the vid, but only when I really see you are struggling to buy bitcoin.
And one more:
From: nightmarе To: [redacted] Subject: You are my victim.
Dо nоt mind оn my illitеrасy, I am frоm China.
I uрlоаdеd thе mаliciоus рrоgram on your systеm. Sinсе thаt mоment I рilfеrеd аll рrivy bасkgrоund frоm yоur systеm. Аdditiоnally I have somе morе соmрromising evidеnсе. The mоst intеrеsting еvidenсе thаt I stоlе- its а videоtаpе with your [indecent activity]. I аdjustеd virus оn а роrn web sitе аnd аftеr yоu lоadеd it. Whеn yоu dесidеd with thе vidеo аnd tарpеd on a рlаy buttоn, my dеlеtеriоus sоft at оncе sеt up on your systеm. Аfter adjusting, yоur саmerа shoоt thе vidеоtаpе with your [indecent activity], in аdditiоn it saved рreсisеly thе рorn vidеo yоu were watching. In nеxt fеw dаys my mаlwаre cоllесtеd аll your sociаl and wоrk сontaсts. If yоu wаnt tо dеlеtе thе recоrds- pay mе 340 еuro in BTC(сryрtосurrenсy). I provide you my Btc number – 1JRMsH8xnm2Uk3XZQfS63woi4uFyM2gBLC Yоu hаvе 24 hours after rеаding. Whеn I gеt trаnsfer I will dеstrоy the videotaрe еvermоrе. If you need 50 hours just Open the calculator on your desktop and press +++ Оther way I will send thе tаpе to аll yоur cоlleaguеs and friеnds.
Again, these messages are sheer nonsense, but might well frighten some people into paying. The criminals who are perpetrating these scams are very evil. Never respond to them, never send any money to them.
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” <email@example.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.
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:
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 audio, video 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.
For a while now, people have been receiving deceptive solicitations from a company called “Domain LIstings, PO Box 19607, Las Vegas, NV 89132-0607.” I got one just last week.
You can see the letter they send out below:
The letter is designed to think that you have to pay to re-register your domain, but this outfit is nothing more than an American version of the “World Business List” – offering worthless services for an outrageous fee.
Please note that these bottom-feeders offer you virtually nothing that Google doesn’t do for free. Their “directory” will not give you a whit of exposure. They offer 24/7/365 exposure, which is exactly what you get when Google and the other search engines crawl your site.
The following words were offered by Alan Alda in 2001, at the graduation of a friend’s daughter. Alda was referring to a piece written by a Chicago newspaper columnist named Mary Schmich, which was virally circulated on the Internet but erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut.
And that’s what makes this Internet event a great image for the age in which we live. There are probably just as many lies going around now as ever before, but these days they’re traveling at the speed of light. There are just as many people who want to fool you into thinking they’ve got it all figured out for you, but now you don’t have nearly as much time to think it over.
And with the help of an engine for repetition that works on a scale unheard of in the past, the lies stick. People are still sending around the talk, thinking it was written by Vonnegut. I was sent a copy just last week.
It’s a delightful piece of writing. But if it’s presented as if it were by someone other than the person who wrote it, it steals that person’s good name and gives itself a certain credibility before it has a chance to earn it honestly. So, as good as it is, it’s a cheat. At least in the way it’s offered to us.
So, you may be thinking, big deal. It’s just a few good jokes. But think about it… It could be selling you anything. It could be a cult religion that could separate you from friends and family, or a quack medicine that could lead you paralyzed, or bogus political information that cause you to elect a numbskull to the presidency.
These are great words with regards to the internet and its impact on the dissemination of information – both genuine and bogus – but eerily prescient in view of the political developments of recent years. For what it’s worth, the entire book is a wonderful, human, and relevant read.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Alan Alda, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (New York: Random House, 2007), 121.
If your computer running Chrome suddenly locks up and you get these display screens:
do NOT under any circumstances call the number shown (888-710-4402). You’ll be connected to scammers in India who will tell you all sorts of incomprehensible things about your machine and ask you to let them connect with your computer.
Look at how bad the English is – practically incomprehensible. This is NOT the number for Microsoft Technical Support. These folks are liars, criminals, and all-round Very Bad People. Allow these drones to access your machine and you’re likely to end up with all your files encrypted by ransomware, or have your machine turned into part of a spamming robot network, or have your financial data stolen, or something equally insidious.
Kill Chrome using the Task Manager and re-launch. These exploits are usually encountered when malicious code is run from an ad somewhere on a page you visited, and is usually not the fault of the page itself.