Thursday, April 28, 2016

Grub Street Printing Newsletter #84, April 2016

Bad People Will Do Bad Things to Your PC...and Your Mac

There are a lot of bad things ready to attack your computer. For years we called them all viruses, but that wasn't totally accurate. Today there are known as malware which includes viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, and ransomware. It's said ransomware is the worst and now I understand why.
I'm uaually cautious when I use the computer. The other day I needed a small program that was offered as “Freeware”, a program that had limited application but was available with full features at a price. When I was ready to download, I noticed that I would need to use OpenCandy as the installer for the program. I consider OpenCandy to be spyware and declined to download the program.
But I was preoccupies when I, in an unguarded moment, scanning through my emails, clicked on a message that sounded vaguely innocent, something about incorrectly paying an invoice. The message was blank except for a link. Stupidly I clicked the link.
You may have seen these emails recently on your computer. I have two in today's email. One from Christian Hull who uses Bill 4F0016 as his subject. Drew Key lists Payment Confirmation as his subject. They both have attachments. Both names are unknown to me.
A day after I mistakenly shrugged off the mumbo-jumbo attachment, my computer began running at at turtle speed. I checked to see what was hogging all of my computer's resources. A program named CgYrXlur.exe was running and using over 50% of my computer's capacity. I Googled the file name but nothing relevant came back. Suspicious, I closed everything that was running and opened MalWarebytes, a free program everyone should have. I ran a scan and I had a big problem. A program called LOCKY had begun encrypting my files. MalWarebytes stopped and deleted it and I ran Regedit to clean another few LOCKY lines of code from my registry.

Even catching Locky early was too late. Thousands of my documents had been encrypted with military style RSA-2048 and AES-128 ciphers and were unusable.
I got rid of LOCKY before it could display its ransom note but it has been posted on a number of “help sites.” The instructions were to forward bitcoins to them and they would send me a “key” to decrypt my files. Just over $200. But these people weren't Sunday School teachers. What incentive did they have to restore my data once they had my money? I elected to restore what I could.
Windows System Restore did nothing.
Since the data was encrypted, not deleted, the websites I visited recommended a program that restored deleted or damaged files. I bought Data Recovery Pro for roughly fifty dollars. It restored a bunch of Windows graphics (buttons, punctuation marks, arrows) but didn't tell me where they had originally been on my hard drive so they're useless. Data? A few pictures, zero documents. I emailed their support team but never heard back.
Recuva is a free program and it produced slightly better results, especially with .jpgs, finding maybe 500 files out of thousands.
What saved me?
First and foremost was Dropbox, a cloud storage program. I was able to restore my Grub Street Printing files, albeit just a few at a time which is time consuming if you're restoring thousand of files. But it absolutely worked.
Also, I have five computers scattered around the house. Whenever I work at a different computer, I just copy what I need from another computer via my home network, use it and save it. I never considered it “backing up” files, but that's what I was doing.
Over 10,000 encrypted files were deleted. For some reason music and video were untouched, but pictures and text files were about 75% affected.
On March 31, Bitdefender Labs announced a free program to protect your computer from the newest ransomware. You can download their protective “vaccine” here. Click on the red Bitdefender website.Oh, you think it can't happen on your Mac? Think again. Ransomware for the Mac that begins with an iCloud hack has just been found. Don't use iCloud? Don't relax.
Partners Closing
Word reached me yesterday (March 31) that Partners Distributing will close. Over the years I've worked with Partners and have recommended their services to a number of you. An era has ended and I fear we are the worse for it.
Trouble in Paradise
Awakening from a digital high seems sobering. “The Four Horseman” (Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook) that seem to author internet protocol may be losing some luster and are no longer recognized as beneficent overlords.
NYT May Ban Ad-Block Use
The Gray Lady doesn't want to hear any whining about reader payback and will probably block its content to those who use ad-blockers, losing a bit more relevancy in an industry that needs readers.
 Do You Rely on Data?

The current obsession with anything generated by 1s and 0s has taken a hit. After 10,000 emails telling us how we to benefit from all the data available for publishers, turns out it isn't all that reliable. Doesn't mean they'll quit pushing it at us.
Patent Trolls Still Trolling
A few years ago we wrote about patent trolls and the high probability that Apple was one. Now, patents sold to investors by RRD years ago are in play, used to bring lawsuits against printers by the investors that now own them.
eBooks, Literacy, and Impoverished Schools
Now that my son lives in an area with limited broadband available, I'm not surprised to learn that many school systems in such communities have little or no access to the internet. Clearly ebooks are no panacea for illiteracy in these areas.
Trying to get noticed by the next generation with cash to spend? Here's what works to catch their attention.
Book Marketing and Social Networks
I know you've been told that compulsive posting, editing and updating on your Twitter, Facebook, etc. accounts will sell thousands of your books. So why hasn't it? Here's why.
Uncoated Text Stocks Price Rising
The U.S. Trade Commission has unanimously found that uncoated paper is being imported and sold below its cost. Import tariffs will be imposed to level the playing field for U.S. Paper mills.
eBook Indexes
Nonfiction sells well as ebooks but generally omits any sort of usable index. By not following the traditional “index in the back format,” eBook publishers have an opportunity to re-imagine and take advantage of the opportunities digital publishing offers.
Tablets vs. eReaders
My wife uses a tablet frequently and should I get a sudden urge to devour an ebook I think I'd borrow it from her. Statistically, however, my age group tends to prefer dedicated ereaders, while Gen-Xers tend to opt for tablets.
Shakespeare's Libido
I'm ashamed to admit that I've forgotten almost everything I studied many years ago in Shakespeare 301. But I'm sure this provides insights to the Bard that were never taught in 1970.
America's Ridiculous Copyright Laws
Lessons learned by following the rights and publications of To Kill A Mocking bird.
Final Thought
Classics are not classics because hoary with age — they are the steel balls which have worn down mountains but remained unchanged in the mill of time. Martin H. Fischer

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