Nasty Ransomware!! I surrender.

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My friend got a locked screen and a notice from “Microsoft Tech” asking to call a 1-800 number so that they could fix the problem…

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Long story short, he was attacked by a ransomware, and the asking price to unlock was $200 cdn. The biggest mistake was that he gave the “Tech” permission to remotely access his computer. Microsoft should know and obviously do that – I would say – more than 80% of people using WinOS are not savvy and au courant of all the XXXwares that could attack their PCs: ransomwares, malwares, viruses, worms, trojans,… The worst of it all his system was “protected” by Norton, but it didn’t catch it…at all.

So I got a call to see if I could savage the carnage. When I got there, I was happy to see that the OS was still “functional”, but lurking behind the system and unbeknownst to me traps were set already, so I started with what I normally would do: a full scan with Norton. The second defence was to upload and install Malwarebytes and started cleaning adwares, and malwares, … And Success! So I thought.

A moment of blissfulness quickly descended into Dante’s Inferno literally: HELL. As common practice it is imperative to run Malwarebytes and Norton again in Safe Mode to totally eradicate any remnants of these nasties; however, with Win 8 and 10, you cannot boot into Safe Mode directly by pressing F8 key anymore. What?!! Instead WIN10 – in my case -required that I went through Startup Settings to get to Safe Mode boot. Of course some gremlins had disable the selection of Safe Mode  (I was sure the developer(s) of the ransomeware see through my defensive logic). So I shut down the computer and pressed On/Off Key to do a full reboot. Wrong again. I triggered more gremlins and additional levels of Dante’s Hell. At this point after rebooting in to WinOS it asked for a password, a syskey’s password to be specific (all those private key and public key that could make your head spins.) Sadly at this stage the computer was completely hijacked. I was reluctant to give up, so I did a quick search on Google- eureka- I cracked syskey’s problem, I was able to log-in to the OS again. Now I must be able to go into Safe Mode. Damn you!!!

As their last assault, they used an old school boot-time virus to control the computer entirely: blue screen of errors. In my time, it was called MBR virus; this current one affected the BCD to the same effect. In that era, I had to boot with a “FLOPPY” with an antivirus app loaded, F-Prot, to kill the MBR virus, but I had no idea how it worked now. with the BCD error. Nevertheless, I kept trying and searching for solutions. Although I was able to get into the Command Mode in C:/ prompt, none of the things I tried work. The only option left was to do a full reinstall. HaHa, you wish! The ransomware was so virile that I couldn’t complete a full re-install. Of course, it didn’t allow me to re-install using the recovery partition either.

The very very last thing I did was to install Ubuntu (a Linux OS), hoping I could check, at least, the disk with Linux OS running: Nope! It basically shut out any sort of installation to the hard drive.

After 8 hours struggling with this thing, it was time to surrender. My final thought, never get yourself in a pickle like my friend’s. Be vigilant, be skeptical, be aware!

P.S. my friend took his laptop to a local computer store and had it repaired; now it’s good as new. Thankfully he has made backups.

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Nothing is easy with Windows! (HDMI to DVI Display)

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Male DVI connector pins (view of plug)

Male DVI connector pins (view of plug) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I figured my monitor has a DVI in, and my relatively new laptop has a HDMI out, why not get an inexpensive HDMI to DVI cable to get the benefits of digital display, instead of the VGA‘s analog cousin.

As usual I did my research about HDCP’s issues (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevent you from dubbing HD contents digitally, and I found none. So I bought the cable at Amazon. The cable arrived and semi-excited I plugged the receptors in to their corresponding acceptors, and booted my laptop: Froze on boot!

So first,I checked BIOS. No option with display adapter. Un-plugged and booted into Windows 7 , 64X  , and no monitor shown after re-plugged HDMI- DVI cable. Tried varies combinations and permutations, no luck. I gave up.

Unhappy with the cable purchased, I went on Google, and not surprising tons of posted problems not so much with HDMI to DVI connection, but the problems lie with Intel 3000 graphics card on the motherboard that Intel never solved the known issues. So as usual, downloaded the most current driver to see if it would do anything! Once again, as usual, went through installation, and after two to three minutes, it said my laptop was not compatible with the driver version downloaded, I need to contact OEM!  WTF! Oh, yes, it did pre-warn me that if the driver was OEM installed, then it might not work. I thought Intel should support future upgrades regardless! I guess THEY DO NOT, so BUYERS BEWARE! looks like it is now all up to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), in other words, if Gateway does not buy the licenses from Intel I am out of luck to use any latest drivers! This is game changing!

Anyway, another frustrated ending. Still not convinced, I Googled again, and in Intel communities’ forums, I finally found a temporary solution:

1) Unplug HDMI cable, and boot laptop

2) Once booted and log-in to Windows, plug your cable in, and go to Control Panel > Harware and Sound >Device Manager; Display Adapters > Intel (R) HD Graphic Family, right-click and select disable, and Yes, don’t worry about what it says or warns.

3) Repeat step 2, but select enable this time.

Caveat: Screen-saver will kill the setting and you have to redo step 2 and 3 to get multiple displays again : (

You should be able to peruse both displays.

So here is my point, if I am not semi-technie, I will be frustrated as hell! But one thing is sure, I have been putting up with Windows and hardware and software issues for so long that nothing is really surprising. Unfortunately, the annoyance variance is still far less than the premium demands of a Mac! (Mac has its issues too)

Cheers.

P.S. Result: DVI is better than using VGA! Essentially (very broadly) DVI is the same as HDMI, except there is no audio.  Also, my monitor does not have HDMI-in.

Watch out! USB 3.0 has arrived.

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This is a topic I find most people didn’t really know about is USB devices and connections. To keep it simple, you want to match the device (DVD-ROM, Portable HD, WebCam, Printer, etc) and connection of the same standard version, i.e., USB 2.0 connection on your laptop with a USB 2.0 device. During the switch of USB1.0 to USB2.0 most companies didn’t want you to know about the change, so that they can keep selling USB 1.0 products, and it caused some problems, for some products are not backward compatible. So you don’t want that to happen, although it is said that USB 3.0 is backward compatible.

At the end of the day, what does an average consumer needs to know about USB?

  1. It is a standard for connection of peripheral equipment to your PC.
  2. New standard is about new transfer rate, i.e., USB 3.0 (5Gbit/sec) is faster than USB 2.0  (480mbit/sec).
  3. On your computer, it is daisy-chained, although you will see multiple USB ports, i.e., you are sharing the same port for multiple extended equipment. In other words, the speed of data transfer is reduced by the number of devices attached.
  4. It’s backward compatible, and the lower denominator is the connection speed. In other words, connecting a USB 2.0 portable DVD ROM to a USB 3.0 will only transfer data at a maximum speed of a USB 2.0 port(480mbit/sec).
So this means when you buy a new computer, check which type of USB ports it come with, I have seen some with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, and know which one is which. Since it is still fairly new-ish, USB 3.0 devices will be more expensive as usual for companies to make more money, so make your decision based on return on investment(ROI); in other words, if you have a USB 3.0 port on your computer, and you really need to buy a new portable drive, it would make more sense to buy a USB 3.0 drive than a USB 2.0’s, maybe not so much on a cost/MB perspective, but for future usability and time saved on backing up. It’s all up to you, but at least arm with knowledge of what you are paying for. Do you own research!
Cheers.