Tag Archives: paranoia

There is a Monster in my Computer

23 May

Okay so you guys.  Today I handed in my thesis.  I printed it on (the required) fancy paper, I ran all around getting signatures, and then I deposited the $40 worth of paper* (sorry, world) on the desk of the person who was tasked with receiving theses.  So, this means three things.  One, I have finally completed my graduate program thus bringing an end to our (AKA my) long national nightmare.  Two, I have more time to read things that are not school related.  And three, I can then write about them here.  So, hooray for you if you like reading my blog!  Anyway, not the point.  The point is that I am fairly certain there is a monster in my computer.

So, here’s what happened.  Today while I was riding the train into the city to get my thesis printed and signed (did I mention that I handed in my thesis today?!) I was reading this article in The New Yorker by John Seabrook called “Network Insecurity:  Are we losing the battle against cyber crime?”  The article is all about these groups of hackers all over the world, that are sometimes associated with a government, that are hacking into computers and stealing all the information!  I know, I know, you are wondering whether I have been living under a rock for the past like, 15 years.  Well, the answer is yes and no.  I remember those scams where that guy in Africa would say he was a prince or something and if you sent him money now you would get all the money later but actually there was no later and you were just a fool.  I also know about Aaron Swartz.  I also know that there have been some articles about how maybe the Chinese government was cyber-spying (which totally makes me think  of creepy chat rooms).  What I did not know is that there might be people hacking into my computer right now!  Like, as I am typing this!  And they might be seeing me type from the “other side!”  And when I think about the “other side” I think that they are reading everything backwards, but then of course if they are tech-y enough to get into my computer in the first place then they can probably read things forwards.  Also, they probably don’t really care about reading my blog while I am writing it because it isn’t that good and they might as well just wait until I officially publish it. (I understand that none of these thoughts are even close to reasonable, but technology totally blows my mind.  3-D printing? What?!)

Sorry, I got off track.  So, anyway, I was reading this article during which Seabrook interviewed all these different FBI guys, and private security firm guys, and NSA guys (they were all guys) about the cyber threat and it seems as though it is actually really big.  Not only is it really big, but it could affect any of us!  Even me!  So this is what really made me nervous.  These hacking people send out these spear-phishing emails that they tailor specifically for you using information they glean from social networking.  Then, when you open the email they attach malicious code, or “malware” (not mall-ware, I learned after I embarrassed myself by mispronouncing it to my adviser) onto your computer.  “Downloading the attachment,” Seabrook says, “silently installs the malware, without your noticing.”  And then this is the really scary part: “later, you may wonder why your computer’s fan is always on (it’s because the hacker is using your machine’s extra computing power).” (!!!!!)  When I got home today my fan was on!

Okay, so this might be due to a few things.  I have been using my computer a lot the last few weeks.  I just finished watching two episodes of Awkward (so funny!).  I am running an outdated version of Firefox because my computer is geriatric and I was afraid to get it updated while I was working on my thesis because what if it crashed and also my backup unit caught on fire or something and then I lost everything.  But this also could mean that there is a hacker inside my computer.  So when I imagine a hacker inside my computer what I imagine is that scene from Space Balls where that guy is eating some food and all of a sudden an alien pops out of his stomach and starts singing “Hello! Ma Baby.” It’s like I would be working on something “very serious” and then some weird mutant would pop out of the screen and it would be horrifying and then maybe my cats would kill it.  But that’s not what the hackers do!  They don’t pop out of things with tiny canes and hats!   They can steal your passcodes and take your money.  Or they can see you through your own computer camera and hear you through your own computer microphone!  That’s scary!

So, in summation, in order to protect myself from the hacker that I am convinced is living inside my computer, I have covered my camera with a small sliver of blue post-it.  Now I can sleep easy.

(I am actually really nervous about this.  Don’t mock me.)

*Shouldn’t the price of that paper just be included in my astronomically high tuition that I will be paying off for the rest of my life because 6.8%!