I did something very stupid yesterday. Fortunately, it didn't go any farther than that, and there was no problem. I could have done something disastrous. But happily had the presence of mind to double-check before it was too late, and all's well. But that's why the warning. And a warning with an added asterisk that I've been writing a tech column for over 20 years and should be fooled like like, making it all the more stupid, but also making it all the more clear how vigilant one has to be.
Yesterday, I got a pop-up message that my Flash software might be out-of-date, and would I like it to download the update. (Flash software is what allows graphics to be animated, among other things, mostly for games but also some online applications.) Now, the notice seemed a bit odd, since I didn't recall ever getting a pop-warning notice before, but I have had to update my Flash software, though usually manually. And I didn't exactly remember what prompted me to update it -- just a random, periodic manual check, perhaps? Or a graphic animation wasn't working, maybe. Or a notice that it was out-of-date when a Flash animation came on screen? Or...a pop-up like this, possibly.
I didn't recall. I did know, though, that I have auto-updates set on much of my software, and I also have software that checks for when updates are available. (I manually run one of those checkers every Sunday, in fact, and had done so that very morning.) So, I was surprised, but though it reasonable enough to download the update which looked absolutely real with the Flash logo and everything.
That said, I'll admit to further being surprised that it automatically downloaded the Flash update before I even had a chance to click "Download." And that did make me wary -- but not as wary as I should have been, since I figured it was just related to my various auto-check programs about updates.
What also struck me was weird was that I thought I'd read that Flash was going to be discontinued, though I figured I might have been confusing it with another similar type of software known as Java. In fact, Java was discontinued.in 2018, I believe. So, I thought that that was probably what I was thinking of.
Important note: When you have a lot of yellow caution warning lights, they're there for a reason. So, stop. And I usually do stop at that point, since I was wary about a lot of things. But there were enough answers to my wariness that I movie forward foolishly.
Foolishly, yes, but for all this above, I still hadn't taken a direct action that was actually stupid. All this I've just described was automatic on its own. What was stupid is that I went to the downloaded file and double-clicked on it to run. What on earth I was thinking, I don't know. I could have opened the door to disaster.
Fortunately, like all software, another pop-up box then appeared telling me about the file and asking me to confirm the download. And that's when I fortunately looked closer and took a step back.
It actually all looked fine. But there was one line that looked off. It showed the location where the server was located that would be installing the file. Fortunately. It was something like "Netvork Tekhnolodzhiz - Tov." Now, of course, lot of techies have senses of humor of come up with funny names for their servers. Just that morning, I've updated one of my pieces of software using the popular Major Geeks. (Another reason I was in the "updating software" frame of mind, probably...) And I do know that some servers are overseas. And I could have just missed the spelling if I wasn't at least (happily) wary enough to look. And that didn't look right. At all. So -- fortunately and joyously -- I held up clicking on the "Install" button and went back to my web browser and did a search for "Netvork Tekhnolodzhiz - Tov."
I still don't know what it is. But that's because there were a lot of listings, some for that, some for other things different, with lots of various explanations -- but one word that showed up in the first few listings was..."Ukraine."
I didn't look any further. I didn't care if it was legitimate. If my Flash player was going to be out-of-date, so be it. I could always check into it later on. And if worse comes to worse, ask my tech guru Ed Bott, who would probably say, "Are you nuts???!!!" -- and who is probably shaking his head in agony while laughing at the same time (since I did say I was safe...) while he's reading this.
I mean, seriously -- "Ukraine"!! Why not put a skull-and-crossbones on it with "666" superimposed underneath and have ominous organ music blast out of my speakers? Ukraine. Thank goodness it wasn't something even slightly less blatant, like...oh, Moldova. Perhaps the only time I was actually thrilled to see "Ukraine" appear during this election cycle.
So, after seeing "Ukraine" -- and I mean instantly after -- I immediately went back to the pop-up screen, immediately clicked "Cancel" and not only immediately deleted the file, but permanently deleted it, immediately. And immediately closed all the pop-up screens where it was asking me about the file. (Which I hadn't seen before, but is another dead giveaway that someone is trying to get you to do something you shouldn't.)
And by the way, I later did a search and it turns out I was right -- Flash is being discontinued in December, 2020 -- only four months away.
So, other than feeling like a total idiot for not stopping immediately when I had all those "yellow caution warning lights" in my gut -- and mind -- and then actually clicking on the file, all is well. No problem was caused, because I did finally hold off and looked into what finally was enough to seem wrong.
How did I get that download? I'm not sure, but I think it came as a result of a search I was doing for a question I had. I was clicking on sites that seemed like they might have an answer -- all of which were ones that I either recognized or appeared reasonably legitimate -- except for one that had an odd name. But it was an odd question, and it was only information I was looking forward, I wasn't planning on clicking on anything. But I'm sure it was that website, and when I simply accessed, it sent that download. Which I idiotically clicked on. And then stopped, fortunately researched it and then happily canceled out.
So, that's the warning.
You probably know it. And probably follow it. But it's still good to be reminded of things being especially clever and catching you off-guard even when you're fairly wary. I mean, as I said at the beginning I've been writing a tech column for over 20 years, and I just did something incredibly stupid and naive (though "naive" is too kind a word. It' was mind-numblingly idiotic.) But if there are just enough reasons to move forward, that's what sometimes gets done. Which is a good reason to repeat the "Important note" yet again --
When you have a lot of yellow caution warning lights, they're there for a reason. So, stop.
It's sort of the way I feel about people who foolishly are thinking of voting for Trump and anyone in the Republican Party.
Ah, great! I knew I'd be able to get around to some political opinion this morning. Phew!!!