the sophistication of phishers

Phishing is an activity where you try to con someone out of their private information (like credentials) and these people are too darn clever. I just got a perfect rendition of Apple’s classic email notification that my Apple ID had been used on a Windows 10 computer with Chrome over an IP address in Israel and that my account is now locked. It’s enough to make you panic and click the link they provided.

The Psychology of Fear

Of course, fear is a prime motivator. “ONOZ! I’ve been hacked!” No, actually. Someone just has your email, which you could have seen from the “Undisclosed Recipients” distribution list.

And yet, it was enough to make me go to a different computer, visit Apple’s website and confirm that my Apple ID wasn’t locked out and it’s only being used on my own devices.

Apple’s Lack of Customer Support

For a company that makes as much money each year as Microsoft, Oracle, Google and Adobe combined, you’d think that there would be room in the budget to support their customers.

showmethemoney

In fact, I just spent many moments trying to let Apple know of the sophistication of this phishing attempt, to identify the culprit(s), their website(s), email address(es), etc. No dice. Apple’s doing such a good job of blocking customer requests that I decided that the best way to get the information out there was to blog it. Pretty sad, really.

windows 10 sucks balls

Seriously. So today’s saga ends with me giving up on my relatively-new Windows 10—based laptop as just a lost cause. Since around November, it’s had its microprocessor firmly stuffed up its I/O port.

The Symptoms

The symptoms began about the same time. The Mail app just failed to sync: no new email.

Further troubleshooting suggested that the wi-fi adapter wasn’t consistently connecting to my own zone and not that of one of my neighbors. Tracking down the correct settings allowed me to definitely not connect to that other zone. Although that worked, still no resolution of the problem.

I thought updating might help. Unfortunately, Windows Update thought that it wasn’t connected to the Internet so I couldn’t update. I could browse the Internet with my browser but it just didn’t think that I was connected to the Internet.

The Attempts

I tried using only the wi-fi. I tried using only an Ethernet connection. Same result.

I tried opening an administrative MS-DOS console and entering a variety of terse commands in an effort to clear my DNS cache, reset my IP adapter’s DHCP lease, reset the WINS catalog, you-name-it.

I tried rebooting. Oh yeah, I rebooted the fuck out of that thing. Still, no-go.

I wanted to adjust the network’s location so that instead of thinking that I’m in a public space, it would know that I’m in a private place. But since it thinks I’m not connected, you can’t do that.

The Research

It turns out that I’m not the only one experiencing this. Almost 70,000 viewers on one Microsoft help page alone and thousands of participants in the discussion. Keep in mind that a subset of the users think that this is an email problem, another just-as-large collection of users think that their Windows Update has a problem, another several thousand think that they have a Firewall problem, another several thousand think that they have an Ethernet adapter problem…, (you get the point).

It looks to me like Microsoft has painted themselves into a corner. If Windows Update now doesn’t function, then you can’t easily push out a fix. You then have to rely upon the millions of users to ask you for help.

The Fix

Fortunately, it hit upon me how I could fix the problem which I now share with you.

buy-a-macbook

Update

Now that I’ve formatted the HP laptop with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, I’ve been able to spin up a virtual machine and run Windows 10 Pro in it… and it doesn’t have the aforementioned bug.  Read more