Category Archives: Geek

Robot Wrangler: Gadgets and Hardware – the parts of a computer you can kick

No Genius Here, Move Along

First screenshot from the new toy

20110805-092701.jpg

The INF-Ammyy Scam – Recovering from a Gotcha

Mary writes (in relation to this article):

Sorry to trouble you like this BUT I fell for the ammyy scam! July 11 6PM. Unlike you, I am computer illiterate, so they accessed my computer remotely (I think they got my computer “ID number” or something). But did not give them credit card number, at least :-) To cut short long, inane story: Am I liable to be under CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE by ammyy?? Is my past e-mail correspondence also compromised? Most grateful for your advice! I have filed a complaint with ICC center (Internet Crime Complaints). Also contacted bank & credit card companies. So far (2 days) no mishaps! But what about the FUTURE? Many thanks! P.S. I listened to your audio clips — scammer sounded exactly like my caller…

Don’t feel too bad – the scam is designed to be confusing and scary for you. It’s good that they didn’t get direct access to your banking details. However, it is difficult to know how much access they still have to your computer, or what they intend to do with the access they have gained. Does anyone have any insights as to what actual damage has been done by these people in the past?

Let’s be sure the main access route is closed. Remove the Ammyy Admin software to ‘change the locks’ and make sure the access you originally provided (the ID Number) doesn’t work any more.

  1. Press the Windows key and type ‘Control Panel’ (enter), then click on ‘uninstall a program’
  2. You should see ‘Ammyy’ or ‘Ammyy Admin’ in the list somewhere: click on the name and then click ‘Uninstall/Change’
  3. Follow the instructions from there, and reboot your computer.

That should shut down the access they gained to your computer during your call. Unfortunately, it is possible that since gaining access to your computer they may have already installed other, invisible methods of gaining access. (That would be the first thing I would do, if I were not so nice)

It’s difficult to know if your email records have been accessed, and if your passwords have been compromised. It may be a good time to change your passwords, including the password you use to access your computer, just to be on the safe side. Even if someone doesn’t have access to your computer, it’s a good habit to get into every six months or so.

Spyware and Malware detection programs should help you figure out if other people still have access to your computer using invisible software. Microsoft’s built-in solution ‘Security Essentials‘ should already be installed, and will hopefully flag any untoward software and behaviour, but just in case, I would perform a full spyware scan of your computer to make sure:

  1. If Security Essentials is installed and running, you should see a green ‘House’ on the bottom right of your screen (you may need to click the ‘up’ arrow) – double click on it. (If not, install Security Essentials quickly via the link above!)
  2. Select the scan option ‘Full’ and click the ‘Scan Now’ button.
  3. Wait until it completes, and follow any instructions.

If the scan completes without an issue, you may be in the clear, but keep monitoring your computer (and accounts) for unusual behaviour.

I hope this helps! If you have any other advice for Mary (or corrections), please comment!

UPDATE: August 2 – It looks like the scammers are pretending to be from Telstra now:

UPDATE: September 8 – It also seems the latest Microsoft Security Essentials malware definitions are treating the AMMYY Admin software as hostile and removing it. Guess that points to the AMMYY organisation being part of the problem, not an innocent party. Suggest avoiding at all costs. Microsoft has a good article about what they do and don’t do over the phone, and some advice about what to do if you’ve been scammed.

Responding To New Tricks in the Notorious INF-Ammyy Phishing Scam

Event Viewer
Image via Wikipedia

Long story short – if you receive phone calls from people you don’t know, claiming to know your computer is broken and needs fixing, finish the call quickly. It’s a ‘phishing‘ scam.

Alternatively, if you have a few minutes spare, record yourself wasting their valuable time, as I did earlier today.

Having received a few phone calls from ‘the Windows Service Center’ recently, and after asking them politely not to call with their crazy story a few times before, I decided to see if I could be removed from their list by deliberately wasting their time. It took 20 minutes to find out their latest tricks, and have them hang up on me for a change.

These calls are full of technical nonsense-speak, and designed to allow the trickster to gain control of your computer for, at best, an excuse to bill you for unneeded service charges, and at worst, access to private information like banking details or enlisting your computer in a botnet.

In today’s call, I followed a few of their more harmless instructions. I was expecting this to be a version of the ‘Event Viewer Scam’ which is well-known online. This one is a little different – I’m calling it an ‘INF-Ammyy’ version because of the specific techniques they used. You can replay the full call below.

This version follows the usual structure of the scam:

  • The caller attempts to convince you that your computer is suffering some sort of malady
  • The caller walks you through unfamiliar parts of your computer system and observes that what you are seeing “with your own eyes” is indeed as terrible as they predicted, if not worse!
  • The caller asks you to run software on your system to allow a technician to connect and fix the files
  • In some cases, credit card is information is sought to allow a service charge to be billed

The new aspects of this scam:

  • The caller shows you around the contents of the ‘inf’ folder. Not as interesting as the event viewer, but there are still a lot of scary looking files in there – if you didn’t know that this is a standard Windows folder.
  • The caller attempts to connect you to the ‘ammyy.com’ remote access service. I don’t know if this site is connected to the scammer organisation; it’s probably not. (earlier versions of the scam used the ‘logmein123.com’ domain.)
  • The caller now offers some contact details so you can verify who they are. Feel free to check yourself:
  • Phone Number – (03) 9016 8698
  • Physical Address – 76 Albert Road, South Yarra

More comments about the call inline.

I’m not normally this mean to telemarketers, who are usually genuine people offering a genuine service. In this case, I’m angry with callers who use simple technical tricks to try to fool people into handing over the keys to their computers. I’m offended they tried, and worried they’re succeeding with other less-computer-savvy people. I don’t think it’s likely that these people believe they are offering a real service that actually helps, otherwise they would do some basic technical training which would expose their script as a simple sham.

Anyway – in Part One, the caller walks me through my file system and attempts to connect to my computer. (Warning – I do install software on their say-so, but only with the system on high alert; I don’t recommend taking this risk unless you know the full impact of what you are doing.) Favourite part – where the technician attempts to show me ‘INF – Internet Notorious Files’.

in Part Two, the caller tries to establish more credibility. And fails.

Have you received any of these calls before? Interested in your comments; especially if there are other versions out there.

UPDATE: Jun 13

Followup time – as has been pointed out by a few folk – the contact details I was supplied are bogus: the physical address doesn’t exist (the only Albert Road is in South Melbourne, with a BP Service Station where 76 should be) and the phone number is answered by a foreign-accented person with no knowledge of the service that was touted yesterday. I hope they call back so I can note those details correctly next time.

App Idea: Podcast Bookmarking

Here’s a smartphone app idea that is either a recommendation request, or a million dollar idea that you can steal and later repay me with a free copy of said app. Here’s the idea:

The app should be a standard podcast player BUT with the ability to bookmark some points in the podcast where it has useful information you’d like to zip directly to, later.

You should be able to shake the phone or hit a button at any time during playback to set a bookmark, and then review a list of bookmarks in the podcast that you can click and visit at any time in the future.

Good idea? Already bindun? Please let me know in the comments.

The Queensland and Brisbane Floods via Social Media

It’s situations like the one being experienced by the Queenslanders *at the moment* where Social Media really comes into its own. Thanks to some committed netizens, presumably on dry land, there are number of sources where you can see and hear the Brisbane flood stories happening in real time.

Two real-time streams of Tweets regarding the floods:

Queensland Police are very active on Facebook, even live streaming their press conference

TwitPic shows the photos that are being tweeted from the scenes

UStream allows folk to stream video and audio from the source:

Some traffic cameras are showing the progress of people around the city, and some floodwaters

UPDATE: 4:28 Qld Time

Here’s what happened last time:

Update 23:50 Qld Time

Update Wed 4:37pm Qld Time

Update Thu 1:33am Qld Time

TV Crossovers I’d Like To See – Director’s Cut

image After a couple of days of twitterage under the hashtag #tvcrossoversidliketosee, I and others thought the following show ideas deserved some fleshing out. Your contributions welcome in the Comments.

Bear Grylls In The Big Blue House
A real-life survival series where our hero survives on wits and gnats, until he’s sniffed out of hiding by an oversized orange muppet.

Dharma and Gregory House
This week, hilarity ensues when a diagnosis of terminal lupus turns out to all be in our heroine’s head.

So You Think You Can Dance Like A Fifth Grader
Our contestant’s dancing skills are rated and ridiculed by a panel of insufferably precocious 10 year olds.

Glee’s Anatomy
Hospital life is set to showtunes, mainly so advertising copywriters can unleash a series of increasingly irritating puns like ‘singing your heart out’ and ‘break a leg’

Jamie Oliver In The Night Garden
This week – Makka Pakka’s Pukka Rocky Road

Two and a Half Mentalists
Life is tough for Penn and Teller and the vicitim of one of their failed ‘sawing a woman in half’ tricks.

Lost Betty
This week’s cover: Grass Skirts And The Losers Who Love Them

Survivor: Cougar Town
Courtney Cox challenges potential suitors to increasingly contrived challenges until they vote her off

24 Rock
Jack Bauer might be the only one who can save NBC from itself. This week’s guest star; Conan O’Brien

Desperate Goodwives
Men suck SOOOO Much.

CSI: Ramsay Street
There’s Always A Clue.

Just Shoot Hannah Montana
‘Nuff said.

Spongebob Bebop
This week,  Patrick tracks down Plankton and claims his bounty, but somehow forgets to buy food again.

Trinny and Suzanna’s War On Everything
Everyone needs at least one chicken suit in their wardrobe.

That’s So Merlin
For some reason, Brotha’s predictin’ the future, wearin’ medieval clothes and talkin’ jive.

Buffy The Kitchen Nightmare
Stake and ****ing Chips

Spicks and Specks In The City
Panelists sit in a coffee shop and compare their scores.

The Opiate of The Classes

As school starts for another year, I’m caught raveling a couple of loose threads exposed in my gray matter by an offhand Facebook post. I was gazing lovingly at my newly-christened ‘iPad mini’* and thinking about how similar in form is is to my first ever serious self-bought gadget acquisition: a Nintendo Game And Watch.

image I had scrimped and saved lawnmowing money for 4 weeks to save up the $12 I spent at a Macarthur Square Pharmacy to buy ‘Fire’ – a simple little game of bouncing panicked residents from their burning building to a waiting ambulance.

Wouldn’t it be great to return to that simple gameplay for at least a little while? Today’s app ‘developers’ churning out sound boards and simple games of tic-tac-toe could learn a lot from the earliest mobile application developers – about gameplay, but importantly, about engagement.

They created situations and characters on tiny LCD screens which dragged 10 year olds away from the recess cricket pitch and under the Big Oak Tree for the first time. Nintendo – the inventor of Mario and Donkey Kong – understood early on that the game should be good, the hardware durable, but the kids will only keep playing if the characters are worth saving and revisiting. How many crowds of kids cheered on that little diver as he/she sprinted past the flailing arms of The Octopus? What is it about those cheesy little vignettes that inspires reverie today?

Unlike the Coleco Visions and the Ataris and the well-established arcades**, these games were portable (and school-suitcase-smuggleable). They could wake you up on the morning and keep you awake well past bedtime. There were no cartridges to purchase, no battery-draining backlights, and if things locked up, the ACL button was your friend. And they made cool little LCD explosions if you risked applying your thumb a little to hard to the screen. They established simple rules – 3 misses and you’re out. No saved progress, no cheat codes, no ‘unlocked achievements’, no multiplayer.

And yet, somehow, they consumed the attention and free-time of a generation.

As far as I can see, Nintendo has not allowed Game and Watch Simulators on the Apple iTunes Store. Presumably, the copyright police are (rightly) in Apple’s ear. You can find one or two ‘Game and Watch-type’ apps on there, but nothing worth spending time/money/bandwidth on.

However, there are some simulators available for Windows platforms – where developers don’t *necessarily* need to pass their wares through such a tight net. I found a couple of great sites, below, where developers have lovingly created some Games and Watches of yesteryear. See how many you remember!

imageFor mine, the standout games I can recall: Fire, Octopus, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior, Snoopy Tennis and Oil Panic.

Sure, they’d barely rate a mention alongside today’s FPS/RPG/WoW/MMORPGs, and are probably heavily filtered through a nostalgic lens, but, dammit, they’re honest, hardworking little buggers that deserve a second chance in the apps store – come on Nintendo! Turtle Bridge for iPhone! Make it happen!

Some great sites

If you have any other links or memories, please post in the comments.

P.S.: Circle of Life: I had to save up a similar amount of time to buy the latest Nintendo gadget: The Wii. And sure enough, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl – one of the retro Nintendo characters is – you guessed it – ‘Mr Game And Watch’ – all the way from the scene of The Fire. Spooky.

(* ‘iPad Mini’ is my new name for my ‘iPod Touch’.)

(Update – Feb 2013 – seems there’s a product called the iPad mini now. Guess we can substitute ‘iPad Micro‘.)