The devastating hacking of my computer became a gift in a way. But first, a little background.
At the end of May, I acquired a new Dell computer from Steve O’Neill of Advanced Computer Solutions (ACS) and had it loaded with Windows 10. Steve was highly recommended by a friend who said that he was especially good with elderly clients. His ad in the weekly magazine Pasatiempo promises “No geek speak. Senior citizens are a specialty.” Great.
I was very pleased when he also installed an advanced security system. Unfortunately, the timing of it made me vulnerable. As I worked at my screen several weeks ago, it was invaded by a message seeming to come from Windows about “suspicious activity” on my web site. I assumed that it was an alert from the new spyware.
The ensuing trail led me, like a solitary lemming, toward a cliff. After securing my commitment to pay for a clean-up, the hacker, who had a Middle Eastern accent, exited briefly. Alarm now up, I called Steve. His urgent response was something like “Get out of there.”
I moved instantly to close down my bank account and credit cards. The hacker was probably furious, and I’m still dealing with the ripple effects. These include the loss of all contacts, documents, emails, and pictures accumulated since my move to Santa Fe 15 years ago.
To my anger at myself for letting this happen, Steve responded: “Don’t beat yourself up. These guys have a triple PhD in scamming.” He followed up with several very important tips:
- If you get a message like “Your computer is infected. Call this number.” DON’T!
- Apple, Microsoft, Social Security, Windows and the like will never appear asking you to call them. Ignore any request of that nature.
- If you get a message asking you to update your software or a password, make sure the email address is authentic. And unless you have a friend from that region, beware of a voice with a Middle Eastern accent.
Steve’s final message was a real wake-up: “The very least hackers can do is put a virus on your machine. At worst, they can steal your identity.” In my case, Steve had to rebuild my operating system.
FROM KEYBOARD TO KEYBOARD
This experience put me personally in touch with how vulnerable the online world makes us. However, Steve served vastly to expand that picture. In the process of working through this catastrophe, I also learned some very interesting things about him.
As a result of my friend’s referral, I had been expecting a little elderly guru. Not so. At 6’6″ tall and youthful, he is an accomplished musician–long starving as he put it–who sang and played at an electronic keyboard even internationally for decades.
In 2001, after 10 years traveling four days a week by airplane with a corporate show band, he had to confront a months-long break in the schedule. After working with a computer as a recording engineer for years, he now turned his attention to the computer itself.
He was living in Albuquerque when his sister-in-law urged him to put an ad in a “local rag” offering onsite computer repair services. That led to the move to Santa Fe in 2006 and the establishment of ACS. And then came introduction to what is now known as the exponential change in software.
CHANGE FOR ITS OWN SAKE
His experience with web sites introduced Steve to the speed with which they are evolving. His perspective is that software is being written for people under 30. Two friends who worked for Facebook and Twitter explained what they saw happening.
After the tech staff sifted through 100 to 200 applicants, the most promising were offered two-year trial internships. They were told that if they could come up with a new software idea that could be implemented, they would qualify for a full-time job. The software need not be beneficial. The tech giants value change for its own sake, especially if it generates more ad revenue.
I thought all I had learned from Steve would make an interesting post, and so I asked to interview him. Before that appointment ended, Steve gifted me with a recommendation that would give me a stunning perspective on where the tech giants are taking us, just through social media. He urged me to tune into Netflix and watch the documentary, The Social Dilemma. At the end of the movie, my mind was reeling, and I sincerely hope every reader will be interested in finding out how social media is manipulating the world.
MUSIC FOR THE MOMENT
When I listen to the radio, all the contemporary music sounds very dated. I realize that the music industry, like so many others, is beset by challenges during the pandemic, but I have wondered if anyone is writing songs about this troubled–perhaps even tragic–era.
The right kind of songs might be helpful. As Steve said, “Computers are soulless. Music is all soul.” He has memories of times when a crowd would really connect and go crazy. The band would be elevated and play even better. Everything would go up and up and up.
And then I discovered that Steve had written a song back in 1994 that actually speaks to this moment in history: “Brand New Day.” I especially like this stanza:
In the evening when you turn out the lights,
Do you believe in a brand new day?
A brand new day, a brand new day.
We all need a brand new day.
Before our interview ended, I invited Steve to take a turn at my piano so I could take a picture for my post. After all that eye-opening detail we had covered, there was a major shift in energy while he played a little boogie woogie and sang a bit. You can tell those who will help create a brand new day. He’s one.