At about 9am on the morning of Saturday, February 12, the phone rang.
My wife took the call and was informed that her computer was infected with malware and spyware.
She had been having some problems with one piece of software and had sent a bug report to the manufacturer, but could not understand how our phone number could have been revealed by such a report; neither could I.
Her computer is behind three firewalls, the ISP firewall, the router firewall, and the software firewall provided by it own operating system. She runs an up-to-date virus checker, her mailer is set not to execute executable attachments on incoming e-mail, and as she doesn’t visit any shady websites, the probability of being infected is remote. I asked her to pass the phone over to me because I was suspicious.
The caller repeated the claim, but was unable to explain how he knew that the computer in question was infected.
He mentioned Microsoft and other companies that I had not heard of who had been notified.
He seemed to be working from a script, and wouldn’t be diverted from it. He wanted to get access to my wife’s computer over the Internet. I asked him point blank what he was selling, and he went back a couple of sentences in the script and started again.
I kept pressing him, but could get no sense out of him, in the end I asked him to give me his phone number and that I would call him back.
The line dropped immediately. No reputable company will cold-call and offer to take control of your computer.
If you let a criminal take control you can be sure that all your personal data will become available to him, and if that happens you stand to lose a lot of money.
So if somebody cold calls and tells you that your computer is infected with viruses or spyware or malware, the best thing to do is to put the phone down immediately.
A concerned reader