You Can’t Protect Yourself From The Grandkids

, , , | Right | October 15, 2020

I work evenings at a hotel, and the hotel’s Wi-Fi requires that you first connect to the network via your network connections window in your PC, tablet, or Mac, and then open a browser and try to navigate to a different page to get the password prompt. It’s a common issue we see, with people assuming the Wi-Fi is down because they didn’t get the password prompt.

One day early in the shift, the front desk calls me and asks me to assist a guest in getting online. I assume it’s the same problem as usual and head up to his room. He lets me in and then takes me over to his laptop.

Me: “Did you find the hotel’s network, sir? Were you able to connect to it?”

Guest: “No.”

Me: “Okay then. If I may, then, sir?”

I gesture to his laptop and he nods permission. I then try to open up the Network and Sharing Center, but it quickly becomes clear that Windows is completely locked up. The computer does not respond to anything at all. 

Guest: “It’s doing that a lot. I don’t know why.”

Me: “Hmmm, you may have some software or hardware problems, sir, but let’s try something else first.”

I do a hard reboot of the computer by holding down the power switch until it shuts off and then restart it. While we wait for it to start up, the guest asks me questions about what can cause such a problem, and I explain the various possibilities that can run from anything to file errors, to too many programs starting up at once, to serious hardware failure. Right about then, Windows loads up and his desktop appears. I wait to give Windows time to finish loading, but before it can do that, pop-ups start appearing and disappearing — lots of them. I quickly lose count of them all, and I am completely floored, because I have NEVER seen so much malware on one computer before or since.

Me: “I think I figured out what your problem is, sir.”

I start trying to close them, but I can only close a few before the computer locks up again due to the overload on its resources. I do another hard reboot, and this time start up the computer in safe mode. I spend the next few minutes tracking down and removing all the malware I can find, and it’s enough that I can restart the computer normally without it locking up. It’s still very, very slow, though, and it takes forever for Task Manager to appear. I use it to shut down the remaining malware, and only then am I able to get the computer online.

Me: *Talking to myself* “Good lord, where did all of that come from?”

Guest: “I think my granddaughter.”

Me: “She uses this computer, I take it?”

Guest: “She does. Do you think you can get rid of the rest of it?”

I shake my head and explain to him that the remaining malware is so tightly wound around Windows’ files that removing it without damaging the OS would be difficult, dangerous, and likely impossible. I then recommend that he back up his important files and perform a destructive reboot to destroy the remaining malware and restore his OS to its factory settings. I also advise him to get a good antivirus and firewall, as well as a good anti-malware program and give him recommendations for all three. He thanks me for the help and information, and as I’m leaving the room, he asks me one last question.

Guest: “Do you think I should keep my granddaughter away from it?”

Me: “Definitely, at least until you’ve got some good protection on there.”

He laughed and gave me a good tip before I left.

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