“Easy as pie?” More like, easy as baklava.

(This will be in two parts. I got carried away.)

Many women in my generation have this idea that computers are monstrous creatures who say things like, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” (Hal, 2001: A Space Odyssey)

And we don’t yet have robots like Robby from the 1956 Forbidden Planet. At least, not affordable ones. Not yet. Although… I do have a Roomba. His name is Cecil. The one who washes the floor is Brendan.

I have an “Alexa,” too. She’s really great. She helps me spell things; she tells me the weather; she’ll tell me what day it is if I’ve forgotten. She’ll play a radio station. She plays music. She will read (not well, though) any e-books I’ve purchased from Amazon. When I’m watching TV and am nice and comfy on the sofa, instead of getting up (while yelling “ow, ow”) and heading for my computer to check out something somebody just said in a program, I ask her. Sometimes, however, she says “I’m sorry. I don’t know that.” (I would really like it if she could say that kind of thing in Hal’s voice. And call me “Dave.”)

So computers are great things to have.

What’s so dangerous about them then? Was hubby lying when he told us to be afraid, be very afraid?

No he wasn’t, but it’s not all that bad. We just have to be aware of certain things.

Have a look at what might come up when we search for something.

I had searched for “wordpress.” (Without the quotation marks. And there’s no need to capitalize words when searching. Usually.)

Take a look at the small print in the top line of each item. Beside “Ad.” (The smallest print. I know, it’s not legible. That’s on purpose. I don’t like saying mean things about people, or companies. Especially when they aren’t “bad” people or companies.) The fourth one is the actual WordPress.com site I was wanting because it says https://wordpress.com and nothing else. The others would not have led me to where I wanted to go.

The others (and they vary each search) are hoping for business. The others are hoping we’ll “accidentally” click on them and “buy” their wares instead. These are not necessarily “evil” companies, they’re just hoping. But some ARE “evil,” so be careful. Think of the old days when we were warned not to accept candy from strangers.

Bottom line? Be absolutely certain that the site you are clicking on is the one you are looking for. Yes, yes, I know. I am instilling paranoia into my readers again, but once you get used to doing all this, you will gain confidence. So do the “bad guys” too, though. Just be aware.

Don’t be paranoid, be wary. Study. Learn. Ask. Think of it as a game you’re playing against the “enemy.” Be like James Bond and thwart the dairty boogers.

Here’s a link to an interesting take on antivirus programs: https://en.softonic.com/articles/3-dirty-tricks-that-antivirus-companies-dont-want-you-to-know-about?utm_source=softonic&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl_w21&utm_source=Softonic&utm_campaign=e2e44bbe34-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_5_25_2020_21_38_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9576753237-e2e44bbe34-210745910

I say “an interesting take” because I copied all that big, long stream to ensure it would lead to where it said it would go (for my blog peeps’ sakes). Then when I pasted it into my browser to see it as my blog peeps might, all kinds of ads kept leaping in while I was scrolling through it. The very thing the article told me some antivirus programs would do to me.

You will note that the main “dude” is Softonic dot com. I “heard” they are notorious for following us around and throwing ads at us, but I have used a program from Softonic with no issues. Their article is very close to what I’m recommending. That is, “Be wary.” So thank you, Softonic. [*kiss hug kiss*]

When there are ads tossed in here and there at sites you visit, check out the corners of the ads’ boxes—usually the upper right corner—to see if there’s an X there. If so, click on it and that ad will disappear. Hopefully forever. (This X can be in other corners, too. They’re starting to hide them. Bastids!) Some of them are like flypaper though.

You will also have legitimate-looking and actually legitimate things pop in, too. They will ask us to click Yes or No. X those.

Yup. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”*

Why Am I So Afraid of Computers?

What will happen if I click on something wrong†? Will the computer explode? No. (Although that does happen in some TV shows like Criminal Minds, et al.)

What exactly is so scary about computers? On its own, a computer is essentially a glorified electric typewriter.

Is it the computer itself we fear then?

On its own, no, but when it’s connected to the Internet, it morphs into a kind of telegraph machine. (These work on radio frequencies.) And it works both ways: sending information to us and from us. Sometimes, whether we know it or not.

So is it the Internet we should fear then?

No. That would be like being afraid of a lamp cord that was just sitting there passing electrons through to the lamp’s lightbulb. (I mean, if we bite it, it might kill us, but I think you know what I’m getting at?)

What should we be afraid of about computers then?

Why do we lock our doors at night? It’s not against the dark. It’s against the possibility of humans gaining access to our home and either stealing from us or doing us harm when it’s dark.

So. It’s not the computer we should be afraid of and it’s not the Internet.

Exactly. It’s not the computer that’s at fault.

It’s humans. Most humans are kind and trusting. Some humans are mean.

Danger Lurks

Back to Criminal Minds again: There are those who, through the Internet, lure children, teenagers and naïve adults into meeting them, then cause them great harm. (Online, women are more likely to be targets because we are perceived to be “weak” and “stupid.”)

Think about this though:

We would actually have to meet this person in real life, or give “him” (usually a male—usually!) our home address for anything dangerous to happen to us physically. So that’s not the computer’s fault, that’s our own fault for trusting someone when we shouldn’t. Be wary of psychopaths in wolves’ clothing who are offering us candy both on the physical street and online. (But if we’re not careful about what information we disclose online (even through emails), they can easily find us.)

And while I think of it, if your computer is newish, it will probably have a little pinhole up along the top edge, the “rim” around the screen, probably near the center. See it there? This is a camera. Snip off a little square of duct tape and cover this pinhole over. I had heard about this but thought I was perhaps being a tad paranoid, but I asked my IT guy his thoughts and he said, very quietly, “Yes. Cover it.”

It’s Mostly Monetary Harm that Can Befall Us

What will happen if we get cyber-attacked? Hacked. Or if we hit a button we shouldn’t?

It’s gonna cost us money. Bottom line. Money. Somebody once said, “Economics is everything.” (I think that statement gets truer and truer these days.)

Hackers and cyber bullies can climb in through your computer’s windows, its attic, through its basement by digging a tunnel… We need alarms set up everywhere. But we don’t need to be sitting at the window with binoculars. We need reliable, trustworthy bodyguards.

NOTE: I’m not referring to the Windows program (capital “W”), I’m trying to make a comparison about how “they” can invade our computers, comparing it to how burglars might invade our homes. Example: There’s a virus referred to as a Trojan and it works like a Trojan horse. We unknowingly let it in and it hides “in the basement” or “in the attic.” Talk to an IT (Information Technology) expert about this.

The IT expert will tell us that the main thing is to get a good antivirus program. We will need to renew this (pay for it) perhaps yearly, semi-yearly, monthly… Free is better than none, but free is free for a reason.

We need to have an IT expert set us up initially with an antivirus program s/he recommends. Information Technology experts cost money, too. It’s usually an hourly rate.

My own programs, recommended by an IT guy, are from an online company that I’ve been using for nearly 15 years. It offers several (individual, separate) apps (apps = applications) that I pay for on an annual basis. They offer more, but these are the ones I need, so use.

1.    antivirus protection

2.    tune-up

3.    driver updater

4.    secure VPN

All of these are excellent protection against hackers. (Hackers are ***holes who have nothing better to do than try to make other people sad and angry, and/or poor and frustrated, and/or scared. They especially like to make us scared.)

I also use two apps (with semi-annual payments) that “hunt” for (1) “spies” and for (2) files that have “lost their way.” (Sometimes our files can get bumped out of the way on the hard drive. Hard drive? The hard drive is the computer’s brain. Think of a hard drive as being a super-duper long-playing record like we used to use in the old days. Remember those? With their grooves and the needle? The needle that could screech across our album if we weren’t careful? Hard drives can and do “re-write” their grooves as we work on our computers. They can get “scratched,” too. Hard drives hold thousands and thousands of “songs” on them, and sometimes things can get jiggled off track. The second program noted above helps keep this issue at bay.)

Regardless. We must perform regular maintenance. As in, weekly maintenance. But have your IT person show you how to do this. And take notes upon notes while he does this. And remember where you put these notes. (See previous post about putting things back where they were.) Or, pay your IT expert several hundred dollars a week to come in and do this for you. No? Learn to do basic, regular maintenance and follow through.

(I’ve heard that Apple/Mac computers don’t need any of this maintenance or antivirus diligence. I don’t know. I don’t use Apple/Mac so can’t advise. Ask your IT person.)

NOTE: Be careful not to remove “old Windows backup files” when doing maintenance. Don’t remove “restore points” either. I am speaking from experience.

This week’s tip: Computers are not monsters. But there are monsters out there using them.

Until next time.

*1968, Night of the Living Dead

†Years ago, I belonged to a New Age group. A teacher spoke one evening about using the words, “right and wrong.” She recommended we stop doing that as it was self-judging in a negative way most of the time. She said we might consider using “right and not right.”

Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/

Photos by Sherrill Wark

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