[Ring ring. Ring ring]
ME: G’day. This is Barry
CALLER: Hello this is Windows support. I’m calling regarding a problem with your computer.
ME: Oh? what kind of problem?
CALLER: Do you realise that your computer is generating a lot of Internet traffic that is related to viruses and malware?
ME: No. Is that bad?
CALLER: Very bad. You can get into a lot of trouble if you let it continue.
ME: Bugger! So what should I do?
CALLER: That is why I am calling sir. So we can repair your computer and make it safe. Just follow what I tell you to do. Do you understand?
CALLER: OK. Please turn your computer on.
ME: It’s already on
CALLER: Ok. Hold down the Windows key, press the “R” key and release the Windows key.
ME: What’s the Windows key?
CALLER: Do you see the key at the front left of the keyboard? It should have the letters CTRL in it.
CALLER: Well the to its right should be the Windows key.
ME: Oh you mean the one with a kind of wriggly 4-paned window one it?
CALLER: That’s the one. Hold it down and then press the “R” key then release both keys. Got That?
ME: Yes. [pause] Done it.
CALLER: Ok. Now type in E V E N [unrecognisable] [unrecognisable] W R
ME: Sorry my hearing’s not the best. Can you spell it out again please?
CALLER: E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo.
ME: [pause] Ok. Now what?
CALLER: Click Ok.
ME: I don’t see an Ok button. Should I just press Enter
CALLER: What? Ah, yes, just press Enter. Then tell me what you see.
CALLER: Huh? What do you mean nothing? Can you describe exactly what you see on your screen.
ME: well, I mean Nothing happened. The box that I typed E V E N T V W R into is still sitting in the middle of the screen.
CALLER: Do you have any other programs running?
ME: Yes, I have my email program, a web browser, a word processor,and a [Caller interupts]
CALLER: [cross tone] You must close all programs completely. Do you understand? I want just the desktop like when you first start your computer. Am I clear?
ME: No need to be so short. If you wanted a clean screen you should have said so at the beginning. Now, when you say “Like when you first start your computer”, do you mean before I log in or afterwards?
CALLER: [sounding flustered] Before. No, I mean Afterwards.
ME: [sounding doubtful] Ok. Hang on a mo.
CALLER: Hello? Hello, are you there sir?
ME: Yes. I was just closing down everything. I’m ready now.
CALLER: [speaking slowly and deliberately] Ok. Hold down the Windows key, and while holding it down, press the “R” key. Then release the “R” key and then the Windows key.
ME: [short pause] Ok, Done.
CALLER: Has a box appeared?
CALLER: Type E V E N T V W R into the box and then read out what you have entered.
[slow typing can be heard]
ME: Done. I’ve typed in E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo
CALLER: Very good! Now click the Ok button.
ME: Like I said before, there’s no Ok button.
CALLER: [pause] What buttons to you see?
ME: There are 3 buttons: “Preferences”, “Close”, and one that is greyed out with the label “Launch”.
CALLER: Does the box have a title at the top?
ME: Well what?
CALLER: [exasperated] What it the title?
ME: Oh sorry. “Application Finder”
CALLER: And you got there when you pressed the Windows key and the R Key – are you Sure?
ME: If you mean the R key between the E key and the T key and below the 4 key and the 5 key and above the D key and the F key, then, yes, I am sure. If there’s another R key somewhere else, you’ll need to direct me to it.
The above conversation is the beginning of a 31 minute 17 second session I had with a guy that was trying to “help” me fix a “serious problem” on my computer. After several more unsuccessful attempts to run Event Viewer, he tried another approach:
CALLER: I want you to click on the Start Button.
ME: Where do I find the Start Button?
CALLER: At the bottom left hand corner of the screen
ME: There’s no button there
CALLER: [sounds like he’s talking with clenched teeth] There is a bar that runs along the bottom of the screen. On the left side there is a button that says “Start” or it has the Windows logo on it. I want you to click on it.
ME: Look mate, I’m telling you there’s no bar along the bottom of the screen and there’s no button with Start or the logo on it. I’d tell you if there was. Are you sure you’re qualified to be doing this?
CALLER: You little sh
*t! Do you know how much trouble you can get into by messing around with Windows Security Office? You don’t want to f
*ck with us.
Usually these types of calls end abruptly when I question the qualification of the caller, but this was a new approach. He clearly thought I was a young person trying to be smart. He then went on to explain how I could be banned from the Internet for life for knowingly distributing malware; that my telephone would be monitored, and as distributing viruses and ransomware was regarded as terrorism by the authorities, I’d be put on the terror watch list and the No Fly list, and so would my parents. He then threatened to set the wheels in motion unless I cooperated fully, and asked me again to click the Start button.
I gently explained that I was in fact 69 years old, and as I have autism I often take instructions too literally, and rather than assuming my screen looked exactly like his, he should ask questions that would lead him to understand how my computer is different. I then gave the example of Instead of being rude when I said I didn’t have a Start button, he could have enquired what I do to start up a program.
This seemed to calm him down and we spent another 20 minutes or so as he fruitlessly tried to lead me through installing a remote desktop, a key logger and backdoor, and finally an attempt to install TeamViewer. If only he had bothered to ascertain what operating system was installed on my computer, he would have had a much easier time. My home has been Microsoft Windows free for almost 15 years. Our 2 desktops, a laptop and our media and backup server all run variants of Linux.
Eventually it dawned on him that I might be leading him on and he directly asked if I was wasting his time. So I told the first porky of the evening. I mentioned that New Zealand was a member of the Five Eyes Spy network and I had been using delaying tactics so that his precise location could be identified. It was just a matter of deciding whether to use the local law enforcement agency to arrest him, or the Internet Rendition Unit to whisk him to a jurisdiction where Internet crime is better dealt with. The decision would be made within 24 hours. At that point he hung up. I have no idea if he believed any of the lie, but I hope he sweats for a few hours at least.
I don’t like lying and on the rare occasions I do, I always feel physically uncomfortable afterwards. But on this occasion I actually feel good.