July 10, 2017

A Hacking Attack Triggers Some Changes



A few days ago I noticed a massive bump in the number of daily visitors to Satisfying Retirement. Six times the normal views showed up on the blog's stats page. For no discernible reason I was in the top tier of retirement bloggers. 

I figured a bunch of computers had clicked on the spot for some reason, one I didn't immediately figure out. The number of spam comments didn't increase dramatically. The comments came from the normal folks and regular blog readers. There hadn't been a huge spike in book sales. So, I assumed the traffic spike was just an odd occurrence.

Then, on Friday afternoon I learned differently: my computer had become loaded with malware, trojan programs, ransomware, and other not-so-nice software. My home wireless network had been overwhelmed with attacks, many of which got through. The computers began behaving erratically. The printers stopped printing. When I tried normal fixes for typical computer glitches the problems only became worse.

Finally, Betty called a representative at our computer company who listened to our problems and receieved our permission to remotely look inside the machines. He found software with the signatures of Eastern European and Russian hackers. He found good chunks of the computers were remotely turned off or had their settings changed.

At that point he switched us to a Microsoft support company that spent nearly four hours cleaning out all the poison, resetting up the wireless router, and re-programming two printers had had become unworkable. Several times during this process I had to plug or unplug certain pieces of equipment, turn printers on and off, then on, off, and on again. I was forced to reprogram the Roku device to get the television system back on line.

Finally, I was informed that the malware was gone, both printers were back in working order, and the router was operating properly. Hundreds of malicious programs were removed. A new malware detecting program was installed to work in conjunction with the firewall program already in place. For about $300 my electronic life had been made whole again.

The day of the attack's repairs was certainly one of the more stressful I have had in quite awhile. Only my heart episode of two years ago raised my anxiety level as high as this violation of my privacy by computer hackers. I feared the blog and everything electronic had been compromised. 

This event has triggered the following steps by me. Whether they keep me any safer is debatable, but I have to take some action to feel better:

1)  Our smart phones will have wireless and mobile data turned off at all times except when needed. There is no benefit , only risks, from being connected to the Internet at all times.

2) I am curtailing some of my Internet activity. I have cut way back my the number of "friends" on my Facebook page., friends I actually know and trust. The Satisfying Retirement Facebook page is gone. It is a way into my life that may or may not be exploited; it is not important enough to me to continue.

3) I have purchased and installed a much more robust anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-phishing program. It is set to the highest level of protection. It scans for problems every few hours.

4) I have changed my Chrome settings to block all self-starting videos without my permission. 

5) Both computers and wireless printers will be turned off overnight. 

6) For now, I will continue to blog. But, if I see another massive bump in clicks, I will terminate this blog instantly. I will start up somewhere other than on Blogger. 


These steps will not prevent a persistent hacker from making our life a mess. If people can break into the computers of big companies, utilities, the NSA, or anyone, anywhere, at anytime, I know I will never be entirely safe. Even so, the benefits of  the Internet far outweigh the negatives, for now.

I sincerely hope you don't have to deal with this type of problem. It can shake your belief in the goodwill of  too many people. At the sametime, it is comforting to know there are folks out there who can fix these problems quickly and at a reasonable cost.


43 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Seems to be a common suggestion!

      Delete
    2. Personally I use Linux, except for the phone which is Android.

      Delete
    3. Thanks to ZEUSHACKERS01@OUTLOOK.COM . My lawyer and I knew nothing about hacking Facebook password or phone hacks. But we needed proofs in court. We liked the way he counselled with us about the process and the way they responded to our needs. In just few hours, we had photos, private messages, names and the password. We have already won our case! They also offer services like hacking mobile devices like your partner's texts and calls,whatsapp hacks, clear criminal records, website hacks, instagram hacks,facebook hacks,recover passwords, improve credits, iCloud hacks, upgrading school grades and lots of hacking services. I'm very satisfied with their service.

      Delete
  2. Sorry to hear about your problems Bob and I also recommend Roberta's suggestion. I had the same thing happen to me a few months ago. My visit count went through the roof but since I am on Apple machines which protect their priority code the internals of my machine were left untouched. Hackers just can't get very deep into the background code to do much damage. It also helps that Apple has only 20% of computers out there, the bad guys almost always go to the lowest hanging fruit.

    Maybe in the same regard they target Blogger websites...

    Keep safe my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Google probably doesn't spend a lot of time on Blogger, plus the template codes are written by third party folks. So, I would guess they aren't terribly secure. The new malware program I added should stop most everything, or at least enough to send a phisher to someone else.

      Delete
  3. So sorry to hear that you went through such turmoil. This is not fun. I "third" the above suggestions....Apple. We switched a few years ago, and so far so good. It would be sad if you terminated your blog. I certainly have enjoyed reading it, even though I may largely be a lurker, making only a rare comment now and again. Be safe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Blogger seems to be the door these animals are crawling through, I would switch to another hosting site. But, there would be a time when readers wouldn't be able to find me! Such a hassle.

      Delete
    2. Bob, just wanted to add that should you change hosts, it can be done seamlessly and so you can forward everyone. When I was looking at moving to Wordpress, the guy assured me that I could move all past articles over there and that when I was ready to move, I would be easy to find. I'm still considering that option, but it's more about the additional features than safety. I have security devices on my tablet and phone (I no longer use a real computer)., and in good conscious I cannot echo the apple advise, LOL. My personal experience is just as you're an Iphone person or a Samsung person, youre a MAC person or not. I am not. Sigh.

      Delete
  4. Gosh, That had to be intense. I have tried to eliminate Easin' Along Facebook page, but wasn't successful and had someone publish a post there. Changed my password...hope that helps. Please post updates if anything else happens, and good luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We read about these problems almost everyday, but having your own space violated is nasty.

      Delete
  5. Sorry you were hacked. As an unhappy retiree, I have found your blog to be informative, inspirational, and uplifting. If you were to discontinue your a blog, what a loss, especially for those lost in retirement like me. Hopefully, your computer problems have been resolved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For now, things are operating well. I have taken additional steps to help, but in today's world no one is safe.

      Delete
  6. Thank you so much for the post about hacking. It says I need to get proactive and I thank you for the much needed kick in the butt��

    I left my career job in 2010 and just last month got my first social security check. Your blog has helped me mightily along the way. I think leaving the workforce can for some be just as unplanned as how we entered it. And just as exciting and challenging. Certainly being debt free is the key to freedom. My rule the past 7 years has been "if it isn't fun I don't do it." Good rule. Thanks again and to Betty for her great photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. I know you had problem e-mailing directly from the link. That hasn't worked for years and Google has bigger fish to fry than fix it, I guess.

      Being proactive about computer hacking is certainly better for your stress level. I learned that lesson.

      Delete
  7. Wow! That's an intense experience. Glad to hear you have solved it. For now, at least. If you had to move your blog, I'm sure many of us would help spread the word and follow you!
    --Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Hope. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

      Delete
  8. Tough situation, Bob. Your description of them as animals is apt; they prey on the misery of others. Did you have ransonware that actually came up demanding a payment? Just curious since I have never been subject to such an attack.

    Couple of rules of thumb for me:

    1. Encrypted router

    2. Never, ever open anything suspicious in any way, shape, or form. The two email systems I use, Yahoo Mail and GMail, have been surprisingly robust as far as catching spam mail, but I still have to remain vigilant for those few that might make it through.

    3. Never, ever answer a phone call from any number or person I do not recognize. If it is important they will leave a message and I will then know the # is proper. I use a 3rd party phone blocker app on my Motorola Droid Turbo (surprisingly Motorola never included one with their phone software) and I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of blocked #s on it. The animals, to use your word, change their #s constantly but it still makes me feel good that they are getting stymied some. I also love how they can spoof your local area code when the call is oftentimes coming from Africa or Eastern Europe.

    4. Always keep your security software up to date, and if using Microsoft, have updates enabled. I personally use a 3rd party software for security that I pay for annually; hate to have to pay but they have done a good job of blocking malicious attacks.

    5. When we travel I turn the computer, printer, and router off completely. And while I leave the router up and running daily while we are home, my computer is shut off, as is Deb's.

    6. Clear your browser history and cookies fairly often. It can be a nuisance to not be recognized at first by many sites you frequent, but it is a small price to pay for being vigilant. Free programs like CCleaner make the job easy.

    Sorry you had to go through that, but it is a fact of life nowadays, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I take every precaution you list, which is a great rundown for anyone reading this comment.

      I have hundreds of blocked numbers on my phone from vacation travel companies and time share people. And, yes, they have figured out how to use local area codes to hide their actual location. You would think after a year or more of never connecting with me they would would move on, but not so. Computer dialers don't care. Betty and I never answer a number that doesn't display as in our contacts.

      I now have two third party software programs running on both computers. One handles firewall issues and the other ransomware, malware, and exploit programs. The $100 a year I am now paying is a small cost for having a few more barriers up.

      All of this is the cost of not being a hermit.

      Delete
    2. Bob, you and your readers certainly have a lot of tricks to get around problems us Apple users never incur. I started out as an Apple guy in the early 80s but my company forced us to Microsoft Windows where I stayed for 10 years before I retired. About two years into my retirement I switched back to Apple as it is infinitely more intuitive. I don't read too many manuals now... and that is a good thing... Be well my friend...

      Delete
  9. 7 years ago I got tired of all the battles with malware after doing many of the recommendation suggested in these comments. I still follow those suggestions to this day, but 7 years ago I moved my Windows PC to Apple. I've never ran anti-virus protection and have never had a virus. I run a Malware program every few days and the search always comes up clean.

    Did the techs that helped you get your computer back in clean running state have any idea how your computer was accessed? You sounded as if Blogger was the culprit. I found in the past when I moved my Blogger blog to Wordpress, my blocked hacking attempts doubled within the month of a new Wordpress blog.

    If is is Blogger it would seem logical to ask does that mean your blog readers are now in danger when they access your blog? Kinda a 'Catch 22' type of situation. I also figure if the FBI computer experts have to ask Apple to get into a criminals iPhone because they can't gain access, then that is a pretty good security system they have.

    Sorry to hear about all the problems you had. What kind of third party software are you paying for added protection?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, Bob will answer as to what he is using, but I use AVG. For many years I had only their free version, but a couple of years back as things got more serious out there, I upgraded to one of their annual pay versions. It has been very good at alerting me to any dangers, and stopping any inbound attacks. To be honest I don't have many but it only takes one, right?

      Delete
    2. Bob, I used the free version of AVG when I had a Windows PC. I found it to do a fantastic job. You are right, it only takes one.

      Delete
    3. I have used the Avast free version for several years. But, as things seeme to get more dangerous I did some research and switched to Bitdefender two years ago. I have just added Malwarebytes for all of its malware, ransomware and exploit protection. It is running in conjunction with Bitdefender on both my computer and my wife's.

      Delete
    4. I seems like Blogger is the portal since the number of hits happened just before everything when into the toilet. Whether that affects those who read the blog, I don't know but I doubt it. The techs did not find anything that spreads to others, certainly not through the comment section.

      Delete
  10. Nothing worse than tech issues. period. I started with a MAC and the upgrades were very expensive. I refuse to drink the kool-aid again. I have a great tech guy here who has helped me with any issues I've had. I can't stand the HP I got last year but, I'm dealing with it thanks to Nik, my tech. I do think that Wordpress is the best blog platform, though. I started with it, then switched to Blogger for some unknown reason, but went back to WP in a short time. Sorry for all your grief. It's not all easy, this blogging thing!
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara, over the years between work and personal systems I have owned many, many PC, both laptops and desktops. From my experiences HP makes some of the worst cr-p out there. Dell is generally good, but for a lower cost Acer has been reliable as well. If you can get 4 years out of a PC you can count yourself lucky, since unless you switch to something like a Unix operating system, it will be well out of date by that time for ever-changing software that runs on Windows.

      Delete
    2. Curious what you mean by "upgrades were very expensive"?? Computers or iPhones. With phones I agree, not computers. I spent around $1100 in 2010 for a 21.5" iMac, they were only $250 more this past may when I was looking for a new one. I ended up buying a 27" iMac and comparing it's price to the 2010 model was just a few hundred dollars more. The thing I Iike about Apple computers, I don't need a tech guy standing by to fix issues and I don't have to run 5 different programs on my own looking for malware and viruses.

      Delete
    3. I have thought about switching to Wordpress several times but have stuck with Blogger because it does what I want it to do...nothing fancy but then neither are my blogging needs.

      I have been a Windows guy except way back when, we bought an Apple II for the family. I know the reputation is better for Apple but the prices are higher and I am comfortable with the PC environment.

      Delete
    4. Steve, I can buy a very robust Windows laptop for $300-400, and marry it up to a 27" monitor for about $200 more. Sounds like it is less than 50% what you pay for equivalent iMacs. I think that is what Barbara meant, completely upgrading to a new system.

      Delete
  11. Hi Bob,
    So sorry you had to deal with malware and its consequences. Glad you got everything straightened out. Hope you will be able to continue blogging, what you do is great.

    My husband is a former IT professional with 25 years' HP experience. He pulls up source code to check, which is way beyond me. Even so, he once had to wipe hard drives and reinstall everything and call in experts to clean up the computer.

    Most of our problems came from my accessing foreign newspaper websites, which I no longer do. Since you are sticking with HP, to ChuckY's suggestions I would add:

    Never click thru a link in another email or web article. Links are often contaminated or will take you to a site that looks like a valid company but is a fake.

    Never forward anything from the internet. Never open any email with posts forwarded from the internet. Sophisticated malware is now hidden in photos, images, and text.

    Anything questionable pops up, hands off the keyboard. Depressing a key can activate the malware.

    Keep no personal data (health, financial, etc.) on the computer you use to contact the web.


    Hope this helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tips. This is the new world we live in...constant vigilance. I have nothing stored on the computer, including any passwords or important data.

      Delete
  12. Wow, that is scary. I am so computer illiterate, I'm sure I'm a sitting duck. I do have computer savvy friends, thank goodness, who will check my computer for bad stuff and make sure I have good security. But still....

    Your experience makes us aware of how dependent we are on that cyberspace connection. Whenever my computer acts up, I get this sinking, sick feeling. You'd think it was a life threatening diagnosis! I try to remind myself that I lived before computers, and if something devastating happens to my computer, I will still be breathing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are somewhat unnaturally attached to our technology. If the computer boots up a little slower than normal I get antsy. If the cell phone doesn't respond immediately to a command I get testy.

      Every once in awhile I wonder if the Luddites were on to something important, or if the Amish's approach to modern day technology wouldn't help with our fixations!

      Delete
    2. There was an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation years ago where some aliens tried to take over the Enterprise by introducing a game that got the crew hooked one by one until they were all addicted and could not defend the ship. The pleasure reinforcement of the game was a lot like our conditioned responses and interactions with our technology. Our dependence is reinforced when there is a glitch and we are desperate to restore "connection." Are aliens behind this??? Just sayin'.....

      Delete
    3. I watched an episode of Brain Games on Netflix yesterday with my grandson. 10 adults were put in a room for a focus group. They had their cell phones taken away but kept in the same room. They were told not to use the phones. The moderator left the room. Within 5 minutes, one by one, these people were unable to control their addiction to check and use their phones. Scary.

      Delete
  13. Because our son worked in Education as we were venturing into computers,we started with Macs and have stayed with Apple.Yes,more expensive. Have not yet had security issues (a blessing..) I have appreciated having an APPLE store nearby and for FREE have had the Genius Bar help me out on various issues. Lots of free fun classes too.. I have been so happy with Apple products over the years,will just pay more and stick with my "religion" LOL! There is so much support for Apple products. Upgrades are free. I have not had to deal with non-Apple issues ,so I am not conversant.Still, in these times, we all need to take precautions!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I were not so invested in the PCs we have and know, Apple would probably be an option. They do build a better product.

      Delete
  14. Bob, This sounds like such a nightmare! I always shut everything down before I go to bed at night. Yes, rebooting in the morning takes a few minutes, but I think it's worth it for the added security.
    BTW, an alternate explanation for your jump in stats might be that Michelle Singletary mentioned your blog in her Washington Post personal finance column on July 3. (She mentioned my blog, too, and I had a three-day spike in stats as a result. In my case,though, I can see that the readers are clicking through from her column.) -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I was unaware of the mention. Thanks...I will take a look. That could be part of it, but with so many Russian based clicks on that day, I think the biggest part of the problem came from bad people doing bad things.

      Delete
  15. Reading this post makes me heartsick!! I, like you, am invested in PC and am comfortable with the product.....although I know there will always be something newer and better on the horizon. But, please advise....where do I start? Do I go to Best Buy and beg someone to direct me or bring in my computer?? After having an in-office tech help with any concerns for the last 25 years....this "going it alone" is very scary. Thank you for all of the time and effort to your blog....it is a valued resource.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do a search on the Internet for the best software programs to protect your computer from virus and malware attacks. Just be sure you are looking at a legitimate review site and not an ad for a particular product. I have used Avast, Bitdefender and, most recently, Malwarebyte.

      Once you have installed a protection program do a deep scan of your system to see if you are OK. If anything suspicious pops up and you are unsure how to fix it, take the computer to Best Buy and ask the Geek Squad to do a search and clean.

      Be sure your router is password-protected.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted