Color-coding the internets – say what?!

I have been a web developer and computer programmer for a long time, so I know how frustrating and complex computers and mobile devices can be.  It is because of this experience that my number one rule is to never poke fun at users when they ask questions that make no sense regarding computing.  I myself asked all of those same crazy questions when I was learning, and I still ask many today.  The world is always kind enough to help me without fanfare, so I always do the same – no matter what.  Unfortunately, as hard as I tried, this rule went out the window recently when the effects of Hurricane Florence arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Huddled safe and sound in my mother’s home, with wind howling and trees swaying, we watched a funny show on TV and snacked on Cheez-It crackers (the white cheddar ones, oh yeah).  My mind was far from thoughts on technology.  My brain was a vortex of worry.  Are cows going to fly by the windows?  Are we going to run out of TP? Can I swim across torrential rivers while holding onto my mom, my rabbit, my cat and my hamster?

And then it happened.

My mom looked at me from across the room, sitting in her fancy recliner, and said something my brain could not compute.  “So what’s this thing called the Black Internet and how do I get on it?”

Initially I did not know how to respond.  I remained quiet for a short time as I search every square inch of my brain for some crumb of meaning and I came up empty.  I had never heard anyone refer to the internet using color codes before.  Finally, I had no choice but to resort to a very sophisticated techy reply of:  “Huh?”

“You know, the internet that steals your identity.”

And it finally hit me.  “Do you mean the Dark Web?”

“Yes! That’s it! The Dark Web!”

At this point uncontrollable bouts of wild laughter rolled out of me.  I tried to contain myself, I really did.  Luckily ma took it in stride and rolled her eyes until my fit was over and then we chatted about the Dark Web.

I cannot even type this blog post without laughing.  It is just too much.  I am sorry, I really am.  I guess I am not the IT professional I thought I was😊  I will try harder.  I promise.

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Caution: the kind voice on the line could be up to no good

We received another suspect call, as do so many every day.  His voice was kind and patient.  His goal? To remote into our computer.  This is not good.  Listening to him was disturbing.  Not because I saw him as a threat but because I know he would have been able to manipulate many others out there who may not be tech savvy or who may have cognitive impairments or who may just be so inexperienced with deceivers that they may not realize what is happening and comply with his requests.

Use the following example of what happened to us as a reminder to keep your guard up at all times when communicating with strangers who are trying to reach you in this digital age.

  • The call came in from this phone number:  282-648-2794 and the caller id was a long series of numbers instead of an actual business name.  Phone numbers are easy to mask so this could or could not be the callers actual phone number.
  • The caller was a very sincere and patient young man with a thick accent, it sounded like an Indian accent.
  • He began the conversation with something creepy.  He made a comment that we had been on our computer yesterday.  This is something he would have no way of knowing.  But we replied yes.  This was his way of determining if we did or did not have a computer in our possession.
  • He then asked if we were the only ones that used the computer, this is his subtle way of determining if the computer is being used for business or personal use.
  • He then asks us to visit a web site and download software.  What he wanted us to download is software from alpemix.com in order to gain remote control access to our computer.  If you do an internet search of alpemix you will see that this is remote control software and it has been used in phone scams for many years.  I do not know the history of alpemix so I cannot say at this time if it is a software of good intent that is just unfortunately the software of choice of scammers or not.  Either way, the scam goes like this:  you download the alpemix software, the caller remotes into your machine and releases malware or viruses, your computer then shows you have malware or viruses, the caller then says that for a fee he will repair your computer.
  • We kept this caller on the phone so long pretending to be inept computer users who could not reach the alpemix.com site, that the caller finally gave up, said something so disgusting that it cannot be repeated and hung up on us.

If you think you have people in your home who would believe a caller like this, sit down and go through this scenario with them.  Encourage them to immediately disconnect the call.  Not engaging with the caller is the most successful strategy and then use features on your phone to block the call so hopefully you will not receive another call from the same people (many phones have call blocking features now and this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of them).

Avoid engaging or arguing with the caller.   This will in no way change the trajectory of their behavior.  Make no mistake, you are dealing with a criminal over the phone.  We can only hope that they will suddenly take up a sweet hobby like knitting or cliff diving and be so preoccupied by it that they forget to show up for work at their job which is obviously a company called something like “Phone Scam Surplus Manufacturers of the Free World Organization”.  Just hang up the phone and go on your merry way:)

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