Bad day at the office today; computer on at 7:30 am and – BANG! – straight away, I knew we weren’t in Kansas any more, Dorothy….all kinds of alarmist pop-ups and messages about killer viruses threatening to destroy civilisation before you could say ‘Norton Anti-Virus’.
And so began my day of jousting with the Beast that is ‘Antivirus System PRO’ (hereafter ‘ASP’), not so much a virus as a panic-inducing programme designed to get you to provide your credit card number to pay for a product that (of course) doesn’t actually exist. I say a day of jousting, but that wouldn’t be quite the right sporting metaphor – blind-man’s-buff might be better, because grabbing the bastard and pinning it to the wall requires that you can see it in the first place.
My main and immediate problem was that I had lost effective control of my computer – I could shut down and switch on but that was about it. As soon as my friendly home desktop appeared, ASP cut in again and off we went on a Cook’s Tour of hysterical pop-ups, sudden digressions into porn or Viagra sites and so on, all shrieking at me that I had to buy ASP now, now, NOW, just to make it STOP, just to make it GO AWAY!
I’d like to tell you that my many years as a seasoned PC jockey came to my rescue and that I dealt with the situation in a way that would make Zen look like an over-energetic ball-game. However this would be a distortion of the truth that would make the late Richard Nixon blush, were he still around to do so.
In the end what happened was that this nasty, noisy Beast of a thing seemed to simply get fed up with the way I kept clicking on the ‘No’ buttons and refusing to install, buy or otherwise play ball with it. The pop-ups stopped and though I have spring-cleaned, installed and uninstalled and generally wasted my afternoon on the phone to engineers at Norton and Virgin Media, though I have scoured the Registry of this machine like The Brillo Pad From Hell, not a trace of the noisy beast could I find. A lucky escape, maybe? We shall see. Maybe ASP just expired from boredom or maybe it lurks ready to unleash itself again at the next full moon or whenever.
And you know the thing that pissed me off more than anything else? After the dust had settled somewhat, I actually went searching for our friend ASP on Google. And I wasn’t disappointed; I am some way from being ASP’s first victim, it would seem.
As Norton seemed unable to find any trace of ASP, what I was actually looking for was a specific hunter/killer programme to find and destroy whatever parts of the Beast were still lurking in my system – and there were quite a few on offer out there – and free, as well. I took what looked to be one of the most promising and downloaded the hunter/killer, ready to unleash it. However, as soon as I tried to open the file, my re-installed Norton anti-virus programme went berserk, telling me that this download was a virus itself and would cause further damage – it even went so far as to delete the file before I could do anything further.
Now, who would do that? Who, I asked myself, would prey on someone who has basically wasted all day chasing rabbits down holes and coming up empty-handed? Someone who, when the barrage was at its worst, actually felt nauseous at the prospect of what was going on in the guts of this machine.
My views on the internet are generally of the soppy laissez-faire variety and I feel strongly that control of it should be kept to an absolute bare minimum, thank you very much Mr Gates, Mr Murdoch. But there were a few minutes there when I became a virtual Visigoth, ready, willing and able to ritually disembowel anyone connected with this wretched scam. You see?….Scratch a liberal…….