Getting spammed at my computer

I receive upwards of 10 and more spam email daily at all of my email addresses. I’m very cautious about what services I sign up for and I constantly nag tell my husband to be very aware of sites that offer free items in return for your email address. Finally, he learned the hard way that my paranoia has some basis in fact: his Yahoo! email account was hijacked and used to send a spam e-mail to all his contacts. Thankfully, his address book on Yahoo has less than 20 entries so it wasn’t a massive spam launch. However, the scary part of this hijack was the fact that it was as if the intruder was beside us as the email was sent while we were both online. I won’t even pretend to understand how this happened, but I talked with him and explained that certain behaviours that he had unconsciously practiced could have led to the hijack. In short, here’s a short list of what he has been doing wrong, IMHO.

  1. He never logs out of his email account. Rather, he just closes the browser window. This is a huge no-no especially when you are on a public computer. Our computing setup is thus: a home desktop running Windows XP SP3 Professional. I’ve installed Firefox as the default browser, but Internet Explorer is readily accessible. On Firefox, I’ve set all cookies to be cleared once I close the browser and we have Norton Internet Security 2009 installed & updated. He does browse on public computers and if his browsing habits at home (i.e. closing the browser window vs. logging out) mimic his public internet browsing habits, his cookies could have been hijacked by a malicious website.
  2. He is a very good guitar player and I have found him downloading guitar tab tools from sites he finds via Google or visiting link-riddled websites. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that virus, trojans, etc could be introduced by free and unvetted programs. If he provided his email address, there’s no telling what these free sites would do with that information.

In any case, trying to track down the hacker will be futile when all I have are the email headers. I’m currently running a full system scan on the PC (HijackThis turns up nothing suspicious) and I will defragment the computer also & rid the computer of obsolete programs. I’m sorely tempted to wipe Windows off and install Ubuntu or some other distro (Linux Mint comes to mind, thanks Judith!) so that the aging hardware can be put to good use. It’s only 4 yrs old and I’d hate to have to upgrade because Windows keeps getting tons of huge updates. End of rant. lol

In other  news, I’m happy to report that my experience with the Bitdefender Antivirus Scanner for Unices (by the way, Unix is singular and Unices is plural) is very positive. My system has been virus-free thus far and I hope to keep it that way. I run chkrootkit and rkhunter fairly regularly. However, there is a small issue that hopefully will be resolved soon. I’ve scanned my entire file system with the Bitdefender Antivirus Scanner for Unices before so I was surprised to have another full system scan get aborted yesterday. I copied the output and pasted it into a text file. I sent it off to the Bitdefender Support and they narrowed the problem down to this item which causes the scan to abort:

bdscan “/opt/picasa/wine/drive_c/Program Files/Picasa2/Uninstall.exe”

Hopefully, an update will be issued that will correct whatever is causing this.

An update on my Bitdefender Issues

For those first-time visitors, I purchased Bitdefender Internet Security 2009 in August 2008. I was moderately happy with it, but after a while, things started going awry. First, Bitdefender caused the data execution prevention on Vista to kick in whenever I started Firefox. This was a well known issue and I was able to resolve the matter by disabling Bitdefender’s toolbar/plugin for Firefox. After that incident, Bidefender would shut itself off for no reason so I uninstalled it. I then attempted to reinstall Bitdefender on my laptop and all my efforts failed. I’ve got the screenshots and log files to prove it. After several days of being without antivirus protection and trying out all approaches detailed on Bitdefender’s support website, I could not resolve the issue on my own. Then, I went a step further. I initiated a chat conversation with a Bitdefender online representative who walked me through some more steps and when his recommendations didn’t improve the matter, he sent me an email containing information on running some Bitdefender diagnostic tools. I dutifully ran those tools, packaged up the information generated and sent the data to the Bitdefender support staff. That was my last ‘communique, if you will, that I had with Bitdefender.

Fast forward to the new year and approximately 6 weeks and 3 days after sending my S.O.S. email to Bitdefender’s email support system, chatting with an online representative and running several diagnostic tests , I finally got a reply to my inquiry which is shown below:

Dear Jane,

We are sorry for the late reply and any inconvenience it may have caused. If the issue you reported still occurs please let me know, so that we can begin troubleshooting the situation. Looking forward to your reply.
Best regards,
Xxxxxxxx Xxxx
BitDefender Technical Support Engineer

Continue reading An update on my Bitdefender Issues

Shady business practices

So, I activated Twitter Tools last week. I don’t remember when I activated the  “Create a Weekly Post from all twitter updates“, but I logged in this morning to find over 20 published posts that had the same twitter digest material. Yeah, not cool. I have obviously since turned off the weekly digest option and waiting for an update to rectify the issue. I love the plugin and since it’s being actively maintained, I’m sure the owner (Alex King) will have an update soon. This brings me to crux of this post: software titles that have little to no customer support and why you should avoid them like the plague. I’m a little upset so forgive my language and hyperbole, if you will.

  1. Bitdefender Internet Security 2009
    :- I had heard good things about the high detection rate of this program and about their awful customer support. I decided (against my gut feeling) to go with the technically superior product which lacked adequate customer support. I temporarily went back to using F-Secure Client Security 7.12 which is free, courtesy of my employers. I’m still having the horrid “F-Secure Dial Up Control for NT has stopped working” problem which chaps my butt to no end, but within a day of using it, I promptly uninstalled it again. Right now, I can’t even reinstall Bitdefender Internet Security 2009 on my computer because it fails with this error: “An error occured during the installation of assembly component {63E949F6-03BC-5C40-A01F-C8B3B9A1E18E}. HRESULT:0x800736FD” Now, what in tarnation am I supposed to do with that? I’ve run their non-functioning uninstall tool and yet, I still can’t install the software I paid for.

    • Caveat: I should say that I installed Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (Developer) on my laptop and I have since learned that SQL Server 2008 is incompatible with certain programs on my PC (notably Adobe Live Designer which comes with Adobe Acrobat Professional 8).
    • It is entirely possible that Bitdefender is incompatible with SQL Server 2008 although I have not yet seen anything on the internet about that.
  2. Weatherbug software:- As of 12/23/2008,the case has been resolved. Read “The Fine Art of Negotiation or Not. 🙂” I’m leaving this post as-is for posterity i.e. just crossing out the harsh parts, but leaving them still visible. Against my better judgement (yet again. *sigh*), I paid for this piece of shit (POS) software which was available for free (with a generous helping of ads).  That was strike 1. The second step into idiocy on my part was using my VISA Debit card to pay for this item. If I had used my credit card, I could have simply documented how they are not making a good faith effort to resolve the situation and initiated a chargeback. Actually, I’m just reading that it IS possible to do a charge back even if I used my VISA Debit card. I hope to high heavens this is true so all hope isn’t lost. Now, I’m at the mercy of Weatherbug Plus (owned by AWS Convergent Technologies) and my options now are to: (i) either get my bank to reverse the transaction, (ii) get someone at AWS to refund my money (iii) start a campaign online & shame them into giving me my money or (iv) use the legal system i.e. small claims court. The worst part is I feel like I’m communicating with a brick wall in trying to get my money back.
    • To cut this sad & long tale short, do NOT do business with AWS Convergence Technologies.
    • weatherbug-issuesYou will NOT be able to get in touch with a live human being or even a computer. Apparently, if you purchase software from AWS Convergence Technologies (makers of Weatherbug, Weatherbug Plus, etc), you are on your own for issues like trying to activate software that you purchased from them or obtain a refund. I have been trying to get in touch with someone/anyone since the 16th of December 2008. To date, I have not received any correspondence from them acknowledging receipt or otherwise. I’ve called them several times and emailed them as you can see. Not. A. Damn. Response. Try calling their corporate or 1-800 number and see if you can talk to someone. Their contact information (Corporate) is reproduced below:
      AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc.
      12410 Milestone Center Drive, Suite 300
      Germantown, Maryland 20876
      Phone: 301-250-4000 or 1 800 544 4429 ext. 4769
    • For the record, I am well within the 30 days of grace during which I can return their software in exchange for a full refund. Here is the relevant URL: and the important section is “What is WeatherBug’s return policy on subscription services?” I’ll answer that: in their terms: WeatherBug subscriptions all have a 30 day risk free policy within the first 30 days of any subscription period.
  3. I’ll keep this post updated with my travails and keep reading. More importantly, learn from my mistakes.
  4. Update: Right now, I’m being told by my bank that it is possible to dispute the charge so I will go ahead and  with that option. Annnnd, they’re telling me because’s it’s not a physical item, they can’t dispute the quality of the product and I’m stuck with the non-existent customer support at AWS Convergence Technologies. *sigh*