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.