Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the clever little msn user

i was talking to someone briefly this evening about a computer related (though not security related) topic... i have to state up front that this person is not a tech-savvy user, this is someone who needs to have most of her system set up for her, and someone whom i have not regaled with tales of the weird and wild world of internet security...

that being said, after she was satisfied with the explanation i'd given her as to why wifi in a laptop wouldn't work without a wireless access point she related a story to me about something she'd encountered (and will likely continue to encounter for a while - you'll understand why in a minute)... she tells me that she understands that when she turns her computer on msn starts automatically but it doesn't try to connect to anyone else until she specifically clicks on a contact... she also comes to the quite logical conclusion that the same should be true for her contacts... apparently one day while she was on the computer an msn window popped up with a message from one of her contacts - a contact, furthermore, whom she wanted to talk to by phone (since she's somewhat older and that's easier for her)... so she called her friend up and had an exchange not unlike the following:

user : so i see you're online.
friend: no i'm not.
user : what, did you just turn on your computer or something?
friend: ... well yeah, but i'm not online yet.
user : well, that's not what this window on my computer is telling me.

what she told me next really surprised me... she figures her friend's computer must be infected with something and that something is sending out instant messages to all their contacts as soon as her friend turns on their computer... apparently her friend has not been able to get rid of the infection and so continues to send out these instant messages but this person i'm talking to, having figured out the messages with links in them that she's getting from her friend are no good, just closes the msn window when such messages pop up...

imagine that, an otherwise hapless computer user who much by accident figures out how to correctly detect an IM worm (without even knowing what an IM worm is) by confirming whether the supposed sender actually sent it, and manages to safely avoid getting infected herself...