Sockeye Salmon and the Unwanted Visitor

Phew…what a Sunday night it was! All kinds of excitement, in addition to the Olympics. You see, my husband’s birthday is this week, but since our friends work late that day, I planned a small surprise party for early evening yesterday. It remained a surprise until about an hour before our friends arrived.  My husband happened to walk into the kitchen and saw me working on a whole fillet of sockeye salmon, you know the one that originates from northern Pacific Ocean but also jumps upstream in Alaska. The bear-dinner salmon. He wondered what I was making and who on earth would eat all that? Then he also saw the plates and cutlery I had prepared in another corner of the kitchen, and he said something smelled fishy, and it was not the salmon. So I had to tell him that some friends were on their way and he’d better change from his worn out turtle t-shirt to something more representable. Oh, well.

So I prepared the salmon fillet in the oven with lemon, herbs, salt and pepper and a few drops of olive oil (350F/175C and 40 minutes), boiled some fingerlings potatoes and broccoli, and made a fresh salad. And mixed my specialty salmon sauce. So the dinner was nicely at hand. Or so I thought until the FBI intervened.

My husband had been reading some newspapers online and was about to close his laptop when he asked me to come from the kitchen to take a look. Since nothing was going to burn, I went to see what was going on. And there it was, an official looking FBI warning that he had downloaded some illegal materials on his computer, IP address so and so. That was ridiculous and we smelled a rat right away. The site was very elaborate and warned my husband that such activity was criminal, punishable by a fine up to $100,000 and/or jail time. Click here to see the typical jail terms. And now his computer had been locked and all his activity was being recorded. In the left corner of his screen I could see myself peering over his shoulder. We tried to close the page with no luck and were immediately told that our computer might be subject to a virus attack, click here to update your virus protection.  We kindly declined the additional virus download and read further. Since it was my husbands first offense, he would be forgiven if he paid a fine of $200. He could conveniently do this by going to a store, buying a $200 Moneypak, then come home and enter the Moneypak code into the computer to unlock it. How convenient! But it wasn’t convenient, or funny, at all. His computer was hostage to a virus, all functions completely disabled, and we had to force it to close. I was tempted to get a meat cleaver from the kitchen, I have to admit. Anyway, we finally resigned to the hostage situation and decided that in the morning we’d take it to the Geek Guard or some similar place to be cleaned.

It was a nice and warm birthday celebration. The sockeye was delicious and we had a really good time. It would have been perfect if the laptop hadn’t been sitting there as a lame duck staring at me. So when our friends left, I tried all the tricks I had taught myself through trial and error in my early years in Africa. You know, when I had a PC with the flickering black and green monitor, Windows 1.05 and I was the only computer wiz around. My handicap now was that viruses had not yet been invented at the time, I had no exposure, so to speak. I tried the safe mode boot, boot from the system disk, and I also tried to boot from the command prompt to be able to restore the system to an earlier, healthy point. But the virus just laughed at my face and, I imagined, ate up more and more of the insides of that laptop.  Mums mums. I even did diagnostics and managed to get the antivirus program to run in the safe mode, just to discover that the virus had already made it incapable to find it. Then I went online in my own computer and visited all the obvious places for support, then roamed numerous programmer forums discussing this virus – FBI Moneypak Ransomware Virus, belonging to the malware family. Good to know. But the advice was useless because I could not even get access to the restore file, and the command prompt did not recognize anything I wrote there. The virus had disabled all these functions and some of the keys on the keyboard as well. Should I give up?

You’re not a quitter, think positive. It was close to midnight and Mr. Bolt had just won the men’s 100 meter olympic gold, when I discovered a small website hailed by the programmers as specialized in removing malware. A really good blogger (thank you!) had discovered, and was kind enough to clearly explain all the different options to remove this unwanted visitor. One of them looked suitable to our very disabled situation. And it worked! By midnight the laptop was up and running again, like new! I am sharing this story just in case you get the same unwanted visitor wanting to taste your sockeye salmon. It’s more and more common now in Europe and also in the US, but many reputable antivirus programs still open the door for it. Good evening Mr. Virus. You don’t need to be a specialist to follow these instructions, just a homemade non-quitter willing to save a trip and some money. Or maybe just eager to blog immediately…

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