Knock, Knock – Who’s’ There?

I’m not having a good time starting this column today. Internet Explorer has crashed twice and my hard disk is bewitched and threatens to thrash itself to death. In fact, progress has now become so slow that I’m tempted to reset my system and the only thing that’s stopping me is the knowledge that it takes at least fifteen minutes to have it up and running again.

Why so long? Well, as you know from reading my columns over the years, I’m completely paranoid about security and trying to keep my Windows XP system running without interruption or infection. Under the bonnet, I have Norton Internet Security, Spybot, Registry Mechanic and more and I’m still suspicious every time my CPU, with 250Mb of RAM, shows 95% usage in the Windows Task Manager with only Outlook, Explorer and Word running.

Restarting my system takes for ever because I have Registry Mechanic check it from top to bottom, just in case something nasty has managed to elude my anti-virus software. After all and even with my spam filters turned on, I’ve had three junk emails arrive before I have even completed this third paragraph.

When my system slows down to a crawl, I worry about Spyware that might be stealing my resources and when the hard disk goes crazy, then I worry that someone out there might be stealing all the data from my documents directory. In the meantime, Windows XP which is fully patched and up to date but without Service Pack 2, appears to be suffering from what I have come to recognise as” cumulative patch fatigue”, and now falls over as regularly as its distant ancestor, the much loved and missed Windows 3.1.

There goes the hard disk again; it’s probably the Russian Mafia this time looking for my inline banking details. My Webcam is now disconnected following news of the latest virus that hijacks one’s camera and I don’t feel comfortable about the prospect of someone watching me type a column in my underwear or worse!

I’ve just remembered that I haven’t checked my PC for Spyware yet this month so let’s see what a supposedly fully-protected PC can pick-up while its owner isn’t looking? The immediate result of Spybot’s “Search and Destroy” mission, so many different adware and related pieces of spy code that I don’t know where to start, other than adopt a “Kill them all and let God decide” approach to the problem of a system that is “leaking” information to unknown third-parties without my consent.

Let’s be clear. I’m writing about a single Personal Computer here and Spybot after a search that has take 681 seconds has found sixty “problems” that are in need of correction. That’s potentially sixty uninvited guests since my last scan, parasites, feeding on my PC and sucking the bandwidth and my personal information out of it.

If I’m paranoid then any business, large or small connected to the Internet should be equally twitchy. Computers are supposed to boost productivity and yet hours of my own time, each week, appear to be spent waiting for my system to reboot or scrubbing it clean of spyware and adware.

What can we do about the problem? Absolutely nothing other than buy more security software, which frequently wraps itself around Windows in such a way that the Operating System becomes more “Flaky” than the Open Source community would have us believe it is already. So are we driven by the demands of personal security or a lucrative industry protection racket? I couldn’t say but paranoia is certainly one of the unexpected and less attractive consequences of life at the leading edge of the digital revolution.


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