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All Tricks and No Treats, But a Lesson

I know exactly how this squirrel feels.

I thought I was immune to horrible situations beyond my control. At this point in life, I felt sure I was capable of handling whatever life throws at me.

Not so, it turns out.

A few weeks ago, my computer was attacked by an insidious malware. The cyber thug took over my mouse, infiltrated my files, and kept coming at me. The tech person I had reached out to in a panic was able to see me right away. He opened my computer, clicked around, then uttered a soft “Oh god.” That was almost flatline time for me. But worse, this soft-spoken tech offhandedly mentioned as I was leaving, “First thing, you better check your bank accounts and change the passwords.”

Okay, I was seriously terrified, hadn’t thought of that. All this happening in 109-degree weather. The black paved parking lot to the tech’s office was at least fifty miles longer on the way back to my car with no computer.

Cut Open the Sky launches on October 20th, and I have gazillions of details to attend to. The launch party begs to be perfect and subsequent signings/readings need setting up and planning. Not to forget, blog writing and social media responses. I was able to take care of some of my troubles with my phone, but my thumbs were about to seize.

It all began with my shopping for new malware security. No missing the irony here. The first one I clicked on had a great looking website and at first seemed like it would be a good choice. Soon, a pop-up chat opportunity appeared, and I was happy to see that I could chat with a human. I jumped on. Here was the dumbest thing I could have done. He quickly had me accept a screen share and began to show me that I already had malware. He described how bad it was, from the dark web, Russian inspired, might be too late, etc.

Naïve me, the fishhook was in my mouth. He merely had to tug. "Tom" must have been tickled. At least he said his name was Tom. He did a great job of selling the product and pulling every one of my friendly-person-who-is-now-terrified strings. I was ready to sign up when he gave me a phone number to call so he could tell me more about the product without having to type. I know, a loud bell should have rung in my head then. He began to tell me the program I wanted to sign up for expected me to clean up the malware I already had first. He had the ability to do this for a price.


At my gasp he started giving me a downward graduating list of costs corresponding to the length of time his “people” promised to keep my computer safe.

Finally, common sense overrode brain numbing fear, and I smelled the rat. I realize now, in the light of day, that I should have realized this much sooner. I exed out of the call, turned off my computer and called for help. The tech I used said he’d had thirty- nine calls in two days about the very same situation with the same person and no one had been able to catch him. My ability to trust is now completely eroded, such that I dare think that this will not happen to me again, but I'm also not letting myself get too comfortable. In sharing this experience, I hope I have helped put other people's antennae on high alert.

My computer had to be completely wiped of all content. Imagine. Years worth of stuff, including manuscript drafts and photos. I’ve spent days loading programs back in, changing passwords, and noting what has been lost forever.

Purposely, I haven’t used website names or contact details. This is about not wanting to speak of the devil, rather an admonishment to us all to stay alert and safe.

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