International relations. Or – a troglodyte lost in the internet

Internet map 1024. This image was selected as picture of the day on the English Wikipedia for March 31, 2007.

Internet map 1024. This image was selected as picture of the day on the English Wikipedia for March 31, 2007.

There are times—so many times—when I feel at a loss, not firmly fastened, just bewildered. I’m sure I’m not alone. As for example, the other day I discovered I had been hacked, and badly. I thought it was just me or that the internet had finally run amok: everything was popping up, in and out, and making dire threats about my ability to ever do anything on the web again unless I bought the latest in updates.

When I was no longer able to access the internet on my desktop, I telephoned the authoritative party, in my case—Comcast. First, I discovered, I had to pay my late bill. I always seem to have one of those hanging around. Then, I found a genuine person, someone in Delaware, who showed me the horrors affecting my laptop. (Unlike my desktop, it was hanging onto internet access by the skin of its teeth). It wasn’t just that I’d been hacked; my home and everything digital in it was in jeopardy. I could read it on the graph she put on the screen. I had only two choices. I could find a local Microsoft licensed technician and spend $500 to $600. Or I could apply to a long distance technician she’d put me in touch with, and spend $300. A no brainer.

“Am I being scammed?” I asked. “Oh, no, no,” said the woman in Delaware. “You saw for yourself how truly critical your situation is.”

I could pay by check later. Angie in Delaware wrote down the check number: a credit card might fall prey to one of the many viruses infecting me and my house.

In no time at all I was on the phone with India. Andrew, whose accent became an incomprehensible mutter on my AT&T cell phone, would take care of everything. I sat there helplessly, as he took over my computer and applied serious digital analysis to it, one app at a time. I recognized some of them — I’d tried them — others were mysterious. I waited, limply, as the minutes went by and my money drained into a vast choppy digital sea, when suddenly, without warning, Andrew lost touch with my computer. For nearly an hour he and his supervisor tried to find a way to reconnect. Andrew was in a panic. The modem had died. There was no hope.

I won’t try to explain everything that happened next. Suffice it to say, it went on for several days. The modem was secured; it wasn’t gone after all. I yelled at the guys in India who warned me that without them, my situation was calamitous. I decided to pay $500, or whatever it cost, to the computer guy down the street. And he did whatever magic those guys do – probably pretty much the same stuff the friends of Comcast in India had been doing to cleanse my diseased machine.

$180 later, I exclaimed to the guy in the computer shop, ‘I thought my computer was much further gone than that.”
“They try to scare you,” he said.

I hope Andrew didn’t get fired. He was probably a pretty decent fellow.

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