In Which Theo Attempts to Thwart Cybercrims

Some people are born to be writers. It wouldn’t matter if they wittered in a national newspaper or the walls of a public toilet, in their soul they are a writer and it colours their every approach. The same can be said of artists. It is not merely what you do; it is what your soul is.
I have the soul of a computer programmer. Show me anything clever and my first impulse will either be to try and break it with legitimate use, or else harness its power for a purpose other than the one intended. Back in the days when I learned Turbo Pascal, I spent far more time putting trapdoors into my programs than I ever did implementing bubble sorts and the like. The result was usually a very pretty menu system which, with a little help from my friend Aimee, would allow you to play tunes on the middle row of your keyboard if you typed “antidisestablishmentarianism” after option 4.

Everything was so much better back in the day. Even nostalgia. The interweb was a threatening DOS screen designed to exclude anybody who didn’t know the proper commands. Then came the golden days of Netscape when the only people you could find in a chat room were the computing students of Bournemouth Uni. The first thing I ever looked up on the interweb was a Meat Loaf website. It took half an hour to load before returning an error message. Good times.
Even the computer viruses were better then. I used to spend hours reading the help section of my PC’s virus checker just because it was so interesting. Remember the Cookie Monster virus? Or the Brain virus? These days it is all about the spying and the nicking credit card details. How many of today’s virus creators would give you poetry?* Sasser and Conficker may be effective, but where is the fun?

Naturally, I don’t want my system infected with viruses. Not even amusing ones. To prevent this I spent an afternoon downloading a virus checking software. Or, at least that was the plan.
Having gone to the website, my first challenge was to find the minuscule button which would lead me to the free download. Having found it, I then had to negotiate my way through the lengthy comparison tables which showed me all the things a paying service would provide me with, none of which I want. I told it, again, that I wanted the free one.
Grudgingly it took me to the download screen. It claimed my download would begin shortly. While I waited, it thoughtfully provided me with an advert letting me know I could have the Premium Service for $0.00, down from $35.99. Keen for something free, even though I didn’t want it, I clicked the advert. All I had to do was buy something else I didn’t want and freeness would be mine.
I hit the back button and waited for my download. When nothing happened I clicked the “Click here if it doesn’t work” button. A cynic might suggest this is the only way to get it to work at all and they would probably be right.

With the download complete, I had a cup of tea before attempting installation. Installation scares me. I am forever being prompted to install Windows updates but lack the nerve to do it myself as it tells me to back up my hard drive first. I have no idea how to do that. I instead rely on a combination of automated urgent updates and He Who Knows Everything’s disregard for warning messages delivered in bold fonts.
The installation Wizard asks me questions. It insists I read long and complicated documents which deal with US law. I only agree because if I break them, I know they will have to extradite me first. It offers me the chance to be helpful by letting them spy on what I do. I decline. It offers me a special tool bar which will warn me of nefarious websites before I visit them. Knowing Mammy’s innocent belief that the Google sponsor Ads will lead her to the information she desires, I agree to the tool bar. This leads to further installations and more questions.

Eventually I finish. I run a scan. It tells me I have 18 viruses, all sneakily learning my habits for the purposes of advertising. It also deletes about a zillion cookies which likewise track my moves. I can now visit websites without being invited to learn Arabic.

I reward myself with the paper and another cup of tea. The paper suggests everybody should have at least two virus checkers on their computer and lists a number of good ones.
I suspect I may be here a while.

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