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The Friday Morning Listen: Human Bell

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Happy New Year! Wanna know what I got for Christmas? A big, fat computer virus! Woo!!

So instead of spending time writing yesterday, I had to tangle with the damaging remnants of what some stupid geek thought was cool. You know, you read articles about how software like this ends up costing millions (if not billions) in lost data and productivity. Given what a pain in the neck it was to get rid of, I don't doubt those numbers.

I had just put my feet up in preparation for watching the Tournament of Roses parade. A glass of egg nog had been poured, with freshly-grated nutmeg even. I even had a CD to be ripped for some post-parade writing. Oh yes, I was ready. (Note to the confused: OK, I know what you're thinking…that there's just no way I give a hoot about the parade. Ah, very perceptive of you! The truth is that I wanted to watch the premier of Genevieve Gorder's Dear Genevieve that was to follow the parade telecast, and I didn't trust the scheduling. I know, it's pathetic. Sometimes I just can't help myself).


The parade starts and it couldn't have been more than 30 seconds in before Mary Hart makes some really lame joke about something or other and my attention began to wander. I look down at my laptop and notice an instance of Internet Explorer that's been resized to about an inch square. Hmmm. Then another instance pops up, loaded with some site having to do with quick & easy virus removal. Uh Oh. After about fifteen or twenty clicks I realize that there's no way to kill this off and more and more IE boxes keep popping up. A short victory was had by using the task manager to kill off the program. After that I notice some new desktop icons pointing to BDSM and lesbian sites. Now, I have nothing against lesbians or bondage and S&M-related material, but it's hard to trust things that just appear on your screen. So I delete the icons and within five seconds they reappear. Great.

Rather than deal with this immediately, I decide that a holding-pattern is appropriate. I abandon both the parade and the computer to go outside and clear the driveway. Nothing focuses the mind like wielding a snow shovel and snowblower in five-degree weather. When I discovered that the shoot direction cable was frozen, I just knew it was going to be a long day. I pulled the snowblower into the garage for a quick thaw and went out to start using the old manual method. One hour and one successfully operational snowblower later and it was time to head back inside.

Part of me had hoped that the hour break would somehow result in the resolution of my computer problem with no additional activity on my part. The other part of me writes software for a living. That part knows the truth. After another Internet Explorer freakout, which this time included a fake blue screen of death followed by a fake reboot, I decided it was time to take action.

The problem was that this particular virus intercepted Internet activity at a relatively low level: it wasn't possible to connect to any virus-related site as well as many sites that had tech-related forums. So things like mcafee.com and symantec.com were out. I was trying to remember why I had gotten rid of Norton Antivirus on this computer. That decision was turning out to be a not so good one.

I'll spare you the technical details, but my computer had a particularly nasty problem involving something called a rootkit. Late in the day, I managed to find a program that detected and removed the offending code. I then when directly to symantec.com and re-upped my antivirus software.

This morning, I listened to Human Bell on my way back from taking TheWife™ to work. It seemed appropriate. Take for example the song Ephaphatha (Be Opened). The word 'Ephaphatha' is an Aramaic expression dealing with the idea of being receptive to all things. Is that something a hacker cares about? Probably not.

Phew! What a wasted day, all because some sex-starved geek felt he had to flex his intellect. Now that is pathetic.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Extended electric outage, internet outage and now this. Geez, Mark, what did you do to piss off the gods so much?

  • Porter

    Mark…do you know how I can get my hands on a recording of the Rose Parade?

  • CJ

    I was hit with the exact same virus on New Years Even morning. I have been working for three days trying to get rid of it, but as you point out, it blocks any and all help sites. It also disables the restore function. Could you please share what program detected and removed the offending code?