Today’s column was not going to be about back up files, computer safety, or internet security. However as writers, relying as we do on our computers, it is something that should always be on our minds.
Some computer problems are mechanical. Case in point being the hard drive on my old laptop physically breaking. Some computer problems are viral, your computer falls victim to software meant to bring it down. Usually these attacks are motivated by greed – the program destroying your system is hunting for identity and financial information. Other times it’s random malice -- for reasons that make sense to them people write programs that destabilize or corrupt computers then release them on the web. Sometimes the computer is stolen or destroyed.
These days everyone has backup copies of their important files; but simply having a backup may not be enough. The home of my friend Phaedra Weldon was burglarized a few years ago. Along with her computer, the thieves took all of the disks – including CD back-ups of her novel – in her home office. Another writer I know kept his backups in a separate room, but one day came home to find the fire department soaking the smoldering ashes that had once been his house. One writer I know works in a small room above her detached garage. She burns a CD of her writing folder at the end of each day and puts the CD in a fire-proof box in her bedroom. I know more than one writer who uses an online backup storage service. However, despite these dangers and options, most writers do what I do: a simple flash drive, usually carried on their person, with all of their works in progress and competed mss.
A few days ago my laptop began acting up – hesitating, not opening files unless clicked multiple times, taking more time to open programs or web pages, etc. Last night at about 10PM the virus corrupting it came out into the open. Posing as a Windows XP program it advises me that my computer is under attack and I must go to a website and provide credit card and personal information – plus agree to pay money – in order to reactivate the Windows firewall and anti-malware programs that come free on XP in the first place. My AVG anti-virus and spyware won’t launch – the fake XP warns it has blocked a malicious program (AVG) when I try. Funnily enough, when I launch the Windows security that came with the computer, I get the same message, listing Microsoft as a known source of threats. My system restore, which establishes restore points every 48 hours, can’t go back beyond yesterday so I can’t reset to a time before the virus hit.
Annoying. I’m going to have to pay for a virus clean-out by folks who know what they’re doing. But not a real problem. I thought. Until I plugged my flash drive into the family desktop and AVG told me the drive was corrupted. It will reformat the drive if I’d like, but it won’t open it. I can’t access any of my files – including the column I wrote for today about the hero’s journey.
Monday I’ll let Nathan’s minions at Island Computers purge my laptop of all malicious programs. Then I’m going to look into an online backup service. I recommend you do something similar.