Narelle Henson: Battling Russian hackers

Don't invite them in, be careful what you click on when you're online.
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Don't invite them in, be careful what you click on when you're online.

OPINION: If you thought the tension between America and Russia had nothing to do with our fair land, think again.

We have been thrust into the so-far cyber battle. I know, because I was on the front lines.

That's right, the faceless force cloaked in fear and mystery that made headlines during the US presidential elections has turned its dreaded hand to the sweet shores of New Zealand.

Well, to my computer, to be exact.

You see, I recently emerged from a brutal battle with Russian hackers.

I may have accidentally stumbled into the battle, but I'd rather not think of myself as that stupid.

So instead, I'm blaming Russia for making the computer virus I stumbled into.

In an innocent search for a baby website, I must have wandered from safe internet highways and entered a cold, dark side alley.

Still wrapped up in my warm thoughts of babies, I didn't notice, until suddenly the website wouldn't open.

"Odd," I thought, "I've been here before with no problems."

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Out of the blue, a little notification popped up. Our internet browser fonts were out of date, would we like to update?

My warm thoughts of babies were getting colder, but not because I was suspicious. The realisation that my little boy would soon wake from his nap was creeping up on me, and I knew I needed to hurry up.

"Yes," I thought to myself, "I would like to update. Somehow Will is always behind in these things."

I clicked the affirmative, and a massive green arrow suddenly appeared at the bottom left-hand corner of my screen, gyrating up and down with excitement.

The notification box now read "Click on the update and then click 'Run' to download your font".

I would like to say I got suspicious at this point, but I didn't. I was too busy thinking that I didn't have time for this.

I clicked on the box, and the mouse hovered briefly over the word "Run" before a tiny little click invited the deadly cyber disease known as a virus onto the computer.

At that point, Kepler woke up, so I walked off to get him.

It wasn't until hubby asked me why I had changed his computer language to Russian later in the day that I realised what I had done.

By that stage the hackers had all of our Word and Excel documents, and they were quickly making their way into hubby's company's files via a shared Dropbox account.

Hubby called the IT guy. The stealth attack was about to be countered, and demolished, by the forces of good, I thought contentedly to myself.

And at first, things were looking up. IT guy charged the hacker line and re-gained the Dropbox account. The hackers pulled back to focus on hubby's computer.

At that stage it became apparent that the forces of good are only so much protection against stupidity. After a long and arduous battle with the hackers, the IT guy lost the war over the computer.

Mostly, it was because we were unwilling to pay the US$70 ransom money to get our files back.

That being said, we didn't want to pay the money because the majority of our files were also saved in the cloud, a factor the hackers had overlooked in their otherwise carefully executed and lethal attack.

On that count, I consider us to have outmanoeuvred the hackers, which really makes the whole battle a draw.

It is only now that we have a functional computer back (minus Word and Excel documents), that I've been able to emerge from the trauma of the attack and speak about it.

And what I really want to say is this: Be careful out there New Zealand. The internet is a dangerous place.

 - Stuff

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