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Hackers and the Uncertainty of the Internet


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I'm pissed.

I just spent an hour wading through internet site after site after site to find a phone number for customer service because I'd gotten an email telling me that my Hotmail subscription was about to expire and I had to renew or risk interruption of service.

Now, you might ask, "So what, we all get those, what's the problem?" Well, the problem is that the prevalence of hackers and phishing scammers on the net has become so commonplace that one can't trust emails anymore from what used to be trusted sources. This particular email had a return address of Phoenix but when you live less than four miles as the crow flies from the Microsoft campus you tend to be skeptical of stuff coming from alleged affiliates a thousand miles away.

So, I finally got through to a warm body on the other end of the line. The nice lady - Hazel - informed me that the email was in fact the real deal. She explained that they'd been trying to automatically renew my account but that it kept getting rejected. Well, it has been so long since I opened that subscription that I have no idea what credit card account I'd used to open it. I suspected that card was one of the accounts I told my wife to close down a while back because we weren't using it.

In order to help me, Hazel wanted me to give her the last four numbers on the account I'd used in 1996 to open that email account. I couldn't do that 'cuz I had no idea which account it had been. Finally I asked her, "Can't we verify this some other way? Isn't there a secret question I can answer. Couldn't you ask me what my password to the account is?"

She pointed out that if my account were hacked anyone could give her the password. She was able to access my account though and there was a question there which I was able to answer. Apparently, anyone hacking my account can't get to the area where the answers to the secret questions are maintained (let's hope so).

Long story short (Yeah, riggggghhhht, O'Handley), she was finally satisfied that I was who I said I was and she was able to change the billing information on the account so that it could be automatically updated from now on; and she gave me a telephone number to use in the event I ever had other hotmail billing questions where I wanted to again talk to a warm body.

"Can I do anything else for you, Mr. O'Handley," she asked. "Yeah," I said, "You can tell me when microsoft, lord of the computer universe, is going to find a way to send me an email that I can trust without question, is coming from microsoft, and isn't some cleverly ginned-up phishing scam created by a hacker."

Her response, "But Mr. O'Handley, the email we sent you was legitimate and wasn't a phishing scam. Why would you have thought that it wasn't?"

For a moment I stood there looking at the receiver like it had just licked my ear; then I sighed, thanked her and hung up. Crimeny, if the folks working for the computer lords don't understand how serious the phishing and scamming is out here, how can we ever expect them to get a handle on this ever-widening pool of internet thieves?

It's fixed....for now; but I know that somewhere down the road I'm going to have to do this all over again for something else and that's when an hour or two of my life will disappear down the rabbit hole of website directives, automated answering devices that give you a myriad of irrelevant choices and folks that pass you from person to person until you finally land on the right desk.

The internet was supposed to make our lives easier but in some ways it's made life harder and more stressful.

Just once before I die I'd like to find a hacker/phisher and have the opportunity to give him a good swift kick in the groin for putting us through this. In fact, that should be the punishment the courts mete out when they catch these guys. Remember in the old days when one would get strapped to a mast and lashed? Well, today worldwide they should sentence them to fifty kicks in the groin for a first offense and a hundred for the second, two hundred for the third and castration for the fourth. Ready and willing citizens should be allowed to line up outside of the courthouse so they could carry out the sentence. The bailiff could come outside and say, "OK, we've got a first offender here. First fifty come on in," and we'd each get a three step running start before punting the malefactor's huevos all the way to Tahiti. They should televise it too.

I bet that'd force a quick reduction in the number of these scams and folks' could start trusting their correspondence again.

End or Rant.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Nah,

When I first got on the net in 1996 MSN was my ISP and I had an msn email account. They eventually merged that with hot mail and now it's called msn live or something like that and costs me about $20 a year.

Steel-toed boots; I'd want to wear steel-toed boots to do my punting.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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My favorite of late has been the phone call from "Microsoft" telling me that I have a virus. I usually just hang up, but one day they got me while I was driving so I decided to play along. They asked me if I was sitting in front of the computer, and I assured them I was. They proceeded to instruct me on how to go into MSCONFIG and a few other places to basically hand them control of the computer. After playing very dumb (not hard for me) and making them repeat every instruction a half dozen or so times, I did all I could to make them think they had really hooked a live one, then just hung up.

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