Driver hell

Driver HellDriver hell: no I’m not talking about the commute, I’m talking about computer drivers. What happens when you search for computer drivers.

What are computer drivers?

Drivers are software that tell your computer how to work with a device attached or installed on your computer. Classic example is a printer driver or a graphics card driver. If you don’t have the driver installed or you have an out of date driver, things can go wonky. Your printer won’t print. Your screen looks funny. Your webcam doesn’t work properly when you Skype.

Driver Hell

How do you get to Driver Hell? A device stops working and you search for a solution. Or you get a message that a driver is not found.

Driver hell is searching for the correct driver.

In the image below, see the search results for looking for a Canon Pixma printer driver. In the image from Bing, the first result you get is an ad for a malicious website claiming to have Canon drivers. Just to convince you to click on it, they’ve helpfully added the word “Recommended”.

Driver Hell

The correct result in this case is just underneath, the cannon web site. Always get your drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

On your search for a driver, you may also run into one of those driver super sites. These websites claim to have all your drivers, can fix all your computer problems and if they actually have the correct driver (most times they don’t) the download is bundled with all kinds of unwanted software.

See example below:

Missing driver

The program that comes with these websites usually runs 24/7 on your computer, slowing it down, giving you constant popups that encourage you to download more crapware. You don’t need this kind of driver management. Microsoft actually does an amazing job in supporting all the devices folks connect to their computers. Windows 10 will automatically install 99% of the peripherals out there without you needing to go searching for drivers.

If you can’t find a driver you need from the manufacturers web site or from Windows, it’s probably time to update the device.

Be careful what you search for. Be specific about exactly the driver you are looking for (i.e. printer manufacturer name, model and model number example Canon Pixma M472). Don’t get sucked into driver hell.



The Oscar for worst movie depiction of technology

The Oscar for worst depiction of technology goes to Her. Released late last year, this movie’s premise is that an introverted guy (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love, seriously in love, with his new operating system.

Maybe I’m still feeling used and dirty after Windows 8 came out, but seriously, in love with his operating system?

The whole story is laughable. He’s lonely. He gets his new operating system. During the setup, he gets asked Oscar for Technologyimpertinent questions, not the usual ones, not about his wifi, not about agreeing to the fact he doesn’t own the software but only leases it (check your End User Agreement) but gets asked about his relationship with his mother.

Of course the new operating system with the voice of Scarlett Johanasson who names herself Samantha gets into all his business including his work (he works at a Bring Your Own Device kind of company). She knows all his passwords and reads all his emails and work documents. She’s basically Clippy  on lots and lots of estrogen.

Then the inevitable problems from installing Girlfriend 2.0 over top of ex-wife 1.0 arise. He yearns for his old operating system, I mean, wife Catherine, whose bits are warm, soft and real.

But he continues on with the electronic harpy. One of the more chilling aspects of this movie is all the humans seem more glued to their devices than they are to other humans. She begins to evolve beyond him (doesn’t take long given how shallow a character he is) and starts affairs with other folks on the Internet. Hasn’t she heard of Internet transmitted diseases?

And then finally she leaves his computer. Does he restore from backup? No, the movie ends while he mopes with one of his neighbours whose operating system left too.

This movie panders to the worst kinds of beliefs about computers: that they are somehow independent from humans, have a mind of their own and that we are powerless. Computers are tools programmed by humans, operated by humans and we are responsible for them.

Scarily, this movie won an Oscar for best original screenplay.

Celebrity-Jacking: What is it and why is it important to your security

Celebrity-Jacking is an abbreviation of Celebrity Hijacking and it is an old favourite with hackers and other web miscreants. Celebrity Hijacking exploits popular interest in a celebrity to get people to click on silly things with their computer mouse.

February this year was the tenth anniversary of an early example of this: the Kournikova virus. Anna Kournikova was a tennis star renowned for her flair for tennis fashion. This virus was delivered via an email promising a detailed picture of her but instead delivered a nasty mass mailer that spat spam from your computer.

The company I was working for when this charming virus came out had their email servers tied up in knots for hours. The corporate anti-virus product didn’t have the definitions to protect against until days after it hit.

Even as recently as 2009 poisoned emails promising pictures of Michael Jackson’s autopsy were going around.

But now there is a new attack vector for Celebrity-Jacking: Social Media.  These days instead of getting an email promising pictures of the Royal Wedding with a mass mailer virus, you’re more likely to get a link from a social media web site promising a video of Kate lifting Bonnie Prince William’s kilt at Balmoral. Once you click on the link you either get immediately infected or you get a message that your computer (pc or mac) needs some codexes to view the video and then you get infected when you download the “codexes” . Or whatever the latest celebrity wedding/scandal/event that’s in the news will be used as the lure.

How do you protect your corporate network from Celebrity-Jacking? You can tighten the spam filters but the target is always moving. There’s no point in blocking every email that mentions Michael Jackson now, he’s no longer the celebrity lure he was in 2009 after his death. You can block access to all social media web sites from your corporate network but then how do you update your corporate social media and how do you keep it up to date? Block Facebook today and then maybe Google + tomorrow and then the day after?

Best solution is to regularly educate your employees about Internet security and to have an acceptable use policy for technology in your firm.

Redmond Calling

The Internet Bad Guys have a new attack vector: the phone. Recently a client called me saying someone from Microsoft had just called her to tell her that her computer is infected.

“It’s a scam,” I tell her. So far this scam has only been targeting English speaking countries. Callers pretend to be Microsoft employees (or pretending to represent a computer repair company) and try to get people to allow them remote access to their computer, install software and run a bogus virus scanner.

What should you do when you receive this kind of call?

My client did the right thing by ending the call quickly and calling her tech. Never allow some anonymous voice on the phone access to your pc unless you can verify they are with the computer support company you work with.

Don’t give your credit card to anyone over the phone if you didn’t call them first.

Ask at the start if they require you purchase software or pay a fee for their service.

Write down their phone number or ask them for it (if it doesn’t show up on call display).

Report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 1-888-495-8501.

Remember the best two ways of protecting your computer are to 1) run updates and 2) run an antivirus software.