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This “Computer Maintenance Department” sure doesn’t know much about computer maintenance

“Peggy” from “Computer Maintenance Department” (1-645-781-2458 on my caller ID) called again. Lots of people are aware of these phone calls. They call, make vague claims about receiving a report that your computer is running slow and giving you errors, and are very careful not to say who they are or who they work for. Usually I just do whatever I can to get them off the phone.

But after having lunch with some other computer security professionals last week, a couple of them talked me into finding out how these guys operate. So I fired up a PC that turned out to have a real, legitimate issue. After resolving that issue myself, I turned the caller loose on my semi-functional PC so I could see what these scammers actually do. He had me connect to Teamviewer.com and run their remote access software. I followed his instructions, watched him connect, then slyly unplugged my network cable.

When my network connection dropped, “Peggy” quickly transferred me to a “senior technician” who used the name “Roy.”Read More »This “Computer Maintenance Department” sure doesn’t know much about computer maintenance

How I accidentally found a way to mess with “Peggy”

“Peggy” from “Computer Support Department” just won’t give up. He called me again at about 8 PM this evening. This time, I played along. I had a thrift-store junker PC for him to infect with his malware. The only problem was, the hard drive wasn’t connected and neither was the power cord. So I quickly hooked all that up, booted up, and then played along.

“I want you to click on Internet Explorer.”

“OK.”

“What do you see?”

“Page cannot be found.”

Thus I learned that Peggy isn’t very good at troubleshooting network issues.Read More »How I accidentally found a way to mess with “Peggy”

Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model

I saw this phrase in a job description last week: Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model. That sounds a bit intimidating, right?

Maybe at first. But let’s not overcomplicate it. Once you get past the terminology, it’s a logical way to locate and fix problems. Chances are you already do most of this whether you realize it or not. I was already troubleshooting at at least four of the seven layers when I was working as a part-time desktop support technician in college in 1995.

Read More »Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model

How I once took down a network, including a radio station

I met up Monday night with some other security professionals for some emergency networking of the professional kind. One of the attendees, a penetration tester, had a little incident where he took down a production system when he conducted his penetration test. The system owners were a bit arrogant, and, well, they paid for it.

I’ve taken down a network too, but in my case it wasn’t something security-related. No, in my case, I was a 20-year-old desktop support technician working in a college computer lab, making an honest mistake.

Read More »How I once took down a network, including a radio station

My phone’s micro SD card made Windows Disk Manager hang, but I fixed it

The micro SD card in my Android phone (a Samsung Galaxy S 4G, if that helps) quit working suddenly, and I finally got around to investigating it on Friday. I ended up having to solve two problems to do it, though.

Let’s start with Windows 7’s Disk Manager hanging at the message that says “Connecting to Virtual Disk Service.”

Read More »My phone’s micro SD card made Windows Disk Manager hang, but I fixed it

How to get your first job in IT

I helped a friend of a former coworker with his resume this week. He’s looking to get their first jobs in IT, and found it difficult, even though he was applying for an entry-level helpdesk position.

His resume certainly indicated he was educated and able to hold down a job, but that wasn’t quite enough. Here’s what I had him do to beef up that resume to get past those initial rounds of screening and get interviewed.

Read More »How to get your first job in IT

Entry-level troubleshooting

Ars Technica offers a very good, brief guide to troubleshooting computer hardware. Being two pages long, it doesn’t tell you everything, but includes some good tricks, including one I don’t always remember to tell people. To fully discharge a device, unplug it from the wall, remove the battery if it has one, then press and hold down the power button for 10-15 seconds. This discharges any power that could be lingering in the capacitors inside.Read More »Entry-level troubleshooting

How to wire LEDs and other circuits risk-free

I see a lot of questions about how to wire up circuits, and unfortunately when people ask these questions on train forums, those innocent questions often devolve into heated and unproductive discussions focused on the math and physics involved, or other creative things that overcomplicate the project, and it scares off a number of people, often including the person who asked the question.

Usually what the person asking the question really wants is to not spend a whole Saturday soldering a circuit together, only to find out in the end that it doesn’t work.

So I’ll attack that issue. Here’s how to stage a circuit, find out in a matter of minutes whether it will work, and delay the soldering until you have something promising.
Read More »How to wire LEDs and other circuits risk-free