That time I told a tech support scammer my name was Naim

The other night my phone rang. The caller ID said some state I don’t ever get calls from, so I knew what was going to happen when I picked up the phone. I didn’t have much time, but I answered anyway.

“Hello, I am calling from Windows Technical Support. My name is Daniel,” the caller said with a very slight Indian accent.

“Oh, hi, Daniel.” I said, pausing for a second to think of a name. The last project manager I worked with was a nice guy named Naim, who had emigrated from India to Minnesota. So I stole his name. “My name is Naim.”

Long awkward pause. I grinned. Too bad “Daniel” couldn’t see me.

“Your name is Naim,” he said. His sarcasm and disbelief was so thick it was bulletproof.

“Yes Daniel, my name is Naim,” I said pleasantly, making no effort whatsoever to disguise my midwestern accent. I’ve lived my whole life in Missouri and Ohio. Read more

A security professional fights back against tech support scammers

I guess Matt Weeks is as sick as I am of tech support scammers, because he developed a way to fight back, in the form of a Metasploit module that exploits a software defect in the AMMYY remote access tool that these scammers sometimes use. Metasploit is a tool that penetration testers use to demonstrate–with permission–how hackable a computer network is. In this case, the would-be victim is penetration testing someone without permission. Run the module when the scammer connects to the would-be victim, and he or she gets a command prompt on the criminal’s PC. At that point, the would-be victim can break their computer, perhaps by deleting critical files, corrupting the Windows registry, or something else. Anything you can do from a command prompt would be possible at that point.

I’m anything but heartbroken that this threat exists, although I’m not going to do this myself. Let me explain. Read more

“Windows Technical Support” ups its game–and so do I

It was bedtime and the phone rang. “Unknown name,” my Caller ID said, and the phone number was “1.” Sounds legit, right? No? I picked it up anyway. There was an audible delay after I said, “Hello.”

“Hello?” a distant voice said. “Hello?”

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello. My name is ‘Daniel,’ and I’m calling from ‘Windows Technical Support.’ How are you this evening?”

I really wanted to tell him my name was something obviously non-American, but I couldn’t think of anything so I told him I was fine. Next time I’m going to tell him my name is “Dhanesh.” After an introductory ramble, “Daniel” said my computer was sending alerts because it had lots of errors, and it was impossible for me to see them.

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Mr. Genius Man from “Windows Technical Support” gets nasty

I got another “Windows Technical Support” call on Friday evening. My caller ID said Minneapolis, and since I have coworkers in Minneapolis, I answered. But the guy on the other end was a long way from Minneapolis and probably doesn’t know diddly about ice hockey.

I’m pretty sure it was the same criminal as last time, but over a better VOIP connection. I remember the voice pretty well, because his parting lines from last time, “Enjoy your broken computer, Mr. Genius Man!” struck me as funny. And he started the conversation with, “I’m calling you again about your Windows 7 computer.”

My conversation with him revealed a few things about why this scam is likely to be profitable.

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Windows Technical Support calls me again

“Oh, so you think you’re Mr. Genius Man,” the crackly voice said, drowned out by static caused by his cheap VOIP connection. “Enjoy your broken computer, Mr. Genius Man. Goodbye, Mr. Genius Man.”

So ended 23 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back, but I figure it’s 23 minutes he wasn’t spending scamming someone else. I don’t do it often, but my kids were playing nicely and we were all in the same room, so I guess I don’t regret it too much. Read more

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