Simmons Consulting, the Website of Toby Simmons

My son verminized his computer … and learned a lesson


Computer safety and protection are very big at my house. I suppose this is because I am responsible for so many computers at my job, and have dealt with all sorts of malware and virus infections. I have seen computers turned into boat anchors due to the affect of these trojans and botware. Because of this, I have tried to teach my kids about the evils of software cracks, warez, illegal file sharing and pop ups that promise to fix stuff that’s not really broken. One of the best precautions I have taken is to deny my kids access to the administrator’s account. I always make them to run as plain-vanilla users in order to protect them from the accidental installation of any malware that is so prevalent on the Internet. But like the old quote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men …”

One problem and major inconvenience of denying access to the admin account is when they want to install or update software. Anytime they want to do an install or update, I have to sign them in and (usually) do the install for them.

My son, for example, loves to play World of Warcraft. While I absolutely despise the game, he and his buddies could (and sometimes do) spend hours playing it. The problem with this game is that it requires occasional patches be installed in order to continue to play online. If these updates are not installed, you can’t play on Battlenet, the WoW network.

A few days ago, my son told me that he needed to install one of these updates in order to keep playing. This time, I simply logged him in as an administrator and let him have at it. The problem was I didn’t supervise what he was doing. You see, he didn’t just install the update, he also went looking for a hack that would enable him to cheat.

It seems that many of the players on Battlenet install hacks, patches or cracks that enable them to cheat (spy on other players, see things they shouldn’t, etc.) My son and his buddies were tired of losing to these cheaters, so he decided that he would just become one himself (that is a whole other character issue we have dealt with.)

In his pursuit of a crack, he was apparently presented with one of those “You’ve got spyware installed! Download this program to fix it!” popup ads. I guess he knew he was treading on dangerous ground and thought that perhaps he had messed up and should try to fix it, when in fact there wasn’t really anything wrong at all. He ended up installing Anti-Verminiser, one of the most notorious lieware programs out there. I call it lieware because it lies to you, telling you that you have spyware installed, then they sell you “upgrades” to remove these fictitious programs. They keep finding new ones and keep charging you more money to get rid of what doesn’t exist. I have a good friend who got suckered for about $75 by one of these kind of lieware programs.

The result was I told my son that he was going to lose everything he had on the computer, all his maps, saved games, videos he had made, and more. Like we say at the office when someone brings in an infected computer, it was time to “format C:”. And that is exactly what happened. He lost it all.

I think he has learned his lesson, I just hate that it took such a drastic event to teach him. Of course, he is my son so I should just expect that he will be like me and have to learn many, many lessons the hard way. Sorry that I passed that gene on to you, son.

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