There was once a time, not that long ago, when people could not interact with other computers. They’d stare blankly at a two-tone screen — mine was green text on a black background, an old IBM dummy terminal that could run a word processor, a poor excuse of a spreadsheet, a calendar and a hearts game that was more aggravating than entertaining.
They were clunky, they were underpowered… and they were safe.
The modern age of computing is great for many things. Without the internet as it currently exists, I wouldn’t be sending these words out to you. And you wouldn’t be reading them. But before we were all interconnected through fiber-optic cables and satellite linkups and cable connections, you at least knew who to curse if your computer stopped acting up — either the idiots who didn’t know how to build a computer, or your own dumb ass.
Now we’re left wondering if the computer we buy direct from the factory is going to be healthy at birth. Where being a computer owner once put you ahead of the curve, now purchasing a processor makes you no different than Cletus the slack-jawed yokel, wondering if the infant whose life your actions created is going to be born with the digital equivalent of a tail.
Except this tail isn’t merely some vestigial appendage. It is a spying, stealing, life-raping virus just begging for you to fire its host up for the first time in its soon-to-be-too-short lifespan.
Look back less than a decade, even, and for most computer users you’d have to be a degenerate porn fiend to render enough damage to your hardware to melt it into oblivion. For years, assholes like Joshua Schichtel have been trying to devise ever more nefarious ways of rendering your laptops and desktops their own playthings. In the past few years, we’ve seen a wider variety of software delivered ready to install… a cornucopia of crap onto your computer along with the program you thought you were purchasing.
Now, though, it turns out your computer is able to look at and hear you as soon as it gets pulled out of the packaging and powered up. A BBC report recently showed that a Microsoft study found computers infected with malware right off the production line. These malevolent programs can access your camera and microphone, broadcasting back the spaces where you live and work. They can pass along as much identity-stealing information as you might have accessible… and access to that information is broader than ever.
Your virgin computer is now at risk of coming to your door already infected with a scorching batch of digital syphilis (and chlamydia and crabs to boot).
What can you do, though? Nothing, really, than what you’ve already had to do over the years. Keep scanning your computer, keep looking up nudie shots, and keep buying new technology as it becomes necessary. Perhaps long for the old days like a Luddite, dreaming of neon green on a black void. But, mostly, all you can really do is hope it doesn’t happen to you…
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