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I got hacked. Critical lessons for all of us.

Square continues its climb. Here’s the past six months.


There is “hot” talk about Xerox (XRX) now it’s split. There’s takeover talk about Netflix.

There is even talk of the Republicans cleaning the mess up at FNMA and the $4.12 stock being worth $30 soon.

I figured Lockheed Martin (LMT) would suffer from the Trump obsession with planes costing too much. But it’s up a little today. Good weather for flying.

The new administration is making much noise. You could call it sturm and drang. In an about face, Congress decided it cared about ethics. And Ford dropped its plan for a plant in Mexico.

We live in interesting times.

I got hacked

They hacked into my home network. They left me a note on one computer saying call an 888 number. I didn’t call. Had I, they would have demanded money to remove their malware/virus, or whatever it was. Sadly, they also infected two other laptops on my home FIoS — wired and WiFi — network. I don’t know how they did that. No one else seems to know either.

I contacted tech support at Norton Security, who were aghast. Their Norton Internet Security software had not protected me. They tried to fix my problem. They couldn’t. They put me onto a “level 3” tech support — another firm– which ultimately cost me $599 and about 30 hours to chase the bad guys out of my three Windows 7 laptops. A truly horrible waste of time.

I learned:

+ I need Norton Internet Security, Malwarebytes Anti-malware software and Adblock Plus. That sounds like overkill. It isn’t. You don’t want to go through what I just went through. Trust me. Show this column to your IT guy.

+ You also need all the latest patches to Windows from Microsoft. Better to use Windows 7. My techies tell me there are still “gaping holes” in Windows 10.

+ Keep backups of files and identical backup laptops. You may be forced to quickly shut one machine down  and move to another. I was.

+ Every time you turn on your laptop, you should go to Control Panel/Programs and Features and eyeball that no new software has been installed. Sort the list by date. Easiest to eyeball. If you see something new that you didn’t install, uninstall it immediately. Also look for programs that don’t have a publisher. They could be iffy. All this takes only 15 seconds.

+ Be careful where you go or what you click on. It takes only one second to infect you and make your life a completely misery. You should use Google Chrome or Firefox to search the Internet. Chrome is the best because Google tracks which Internet sites are safe and which ones have the bad guys.

+ You also need to keep track of your “preferences.” How you set software up, etc. On cleanup, you’ll lose a lot of them. I still can’t transfer my Outlook calendar to my iPhone through iTunes. I’ll reinstall iTunes. Maybe that will work.

+ Put black electrician tape over your laptop’s camera. You don’t want the bad guys scouting your house.

Finally be wary of what you have on your main laptop. My techies don’t think the bad guys made off with any sensitive information — like a list of passwords in a file called “passwords.” I didn’t have that. But you get the message.

In short, what you have on the laptop you connect to the Internet is now public knowledge, accessible to any smart 14-year old.  This is truly frightening.

Don’t leave your machine on the Internet and go out to dinner. Shut it off. Turn it off overnight.

I suspect a Mac laptop might be less vulnerable. But they have also been infected. Digital Trends wrote

A few years ago, Flashback malware exploited a security flaw in Java. It managed to infect 600,000 Macs, which was roughly 1 percent of the user base. There is a page about it on Apple’s website.

For the full Digital Trends article, click here.

I bought an Amazon Echo for $50. 


I plugged it into a pair of old, large speakers I had. It sounded fine. It does some useful things like playing music, setting alarms, answering some questions. Its basic skills are:

+ Streaming music from Amazon Prime, Pandora, and Spotify.

+ Playing Internet radio and podcasts from TuneIn and iHeartRadio

+ Reading you books from Audible and the Kindle Store

+ Giving you headlines of the day from sources you choose curated into a “flash briefing”

+ Doing weather and traffic reports. “Alexa, what’s the weather outside?”

+ It will control smart lights, smart hubs, smart switches, and smart thermostats. But you need to install extra equipment for that.

+ Time, alarm and timer.

+ Facts, figures, calculations, trivia, and painfully bad jokes on demand

It will tell you your appointments — but only from your Google Calendar, not from your Outlook calendar, which I use. That is a huge disappointment.

I compare Amazon’s Echo/Alexa wth Apple’s Siri, which comes on all its iPhones.

Siri can do more things, like read my calendar, call someone or take a note and transcribe it.

Siri is a phone. Echo is a music machine and a way of buying things from Amazon. I prefer a laptop for doing that, since it has photos and “honest” user reviews.

Commentary on too many of us.


How to read a scale

A woman caught her husband on the weight scale, sucking in his stomach. “That won’t help you, Joe, you know?”

“Oh it helps a lot,” says the man, “it’s the only way I can see the numbers!”

Harry Newton, who feels violated, and stupid. As soon as I post this, I’m going for a bicycle ride. Alexa just told me it’s 54 outside. Siri told me it was 51. It’s somewhere in that range. Don’t you just love computers.

  • Glenn H

    Another thing that the Amazon Echo does is listen to everything that is said in the room. Everything. I can imagine us writing an article some time from now saying that nothing we say with these connected devices is private anymore….

    • harrynewton

      Not true. I checked.

      • Glenn H

        OK… But think about it. It has to respond to the word Alexa, so it is listening all the time.

        ” the processing required to “understand” your command isn’t handled on the device itself; you need an Internet connection to use it.”

        I can see where many will trust Amazon and that’s OK, I’m a big Amazon user. But I read plenty about big firms being hacked almost daily. I think for me I’m just not comfortable with a corporation putting a listening device in my home just yet.

    • harrynewton

      It’s listening, but not recording

  • Alan S.

    Harry, your story will cause concern for your readers because we know how careful you are about not clicking attachments and other risky online moves. I’m just hoping that Mac may be less vulnerable.

    • harrynewton

      It worries me how easily I got caught.

  • Lucky

    I am happy your Amazon Dot works…I was never able to get one to work on 2 different ISPs…if you think getting your computer hacked is bad…and it is…wait till your Amazon Dot gets hacked and they record every word in your house then try to blackmail you!

  • Scooter

    My guys tell me that Kaspersky anti-virus is by far the best even though they are Russia based. Maybe they have the inside scoop.

    • harrynewton

      Maybe. I haven’t tried it.

  • Richard Grigonis

    An occasional scan with ClamWin is also a good idea.