Losing all electronic files was devastating

Published 5:14 pm Saturday, November 7, 2015

By Larry Lee
Larry is long-time advocate for public education.

For the last 30 hours I have been held hostage by some guy in Russia. Well, not quite, but almost.

About 11:30 Thursday morning I was sending an email to someone and wanted to send along an attachment from my documents file.  So I click all the places I normally do and, lo and behold, I ain’t got no documents. Nary a one. Poof, thousands of hours of work over many years have vaporized.

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So I unplug all the wires in the back of my computer (I never do this without wondering if I will get them all connected back correctly) and head off to my nearby computer fixing guru. About five minutes after he plugged everything in and had the machine running, he gave me the bad news.

“Someone has hacked your computer, removed your document and picture files and left you a ransom note,” he told me.
What I immediately felt was about like I imagine you feel when a doctor tells you that you have cancer and have three months to live. (In fact, I once DID have a doctor call me to his office and tell me I had cancer and I don’t recall being as devastated. But he did not say my days were numbered.)

I thought of all the spreadsheets it took me hours to do, all the articles I have written, all the bits and pieces of research I’ve saved, etc.  All gone.

And the kicker was that the device I had backing up my hard drive had been locked and was useless.

At the suggestion of a friend I contacted a computer forensic expert at UAB and was told that my intruder was probably located in Russia and that the only recourse I had to get my files back was to cooperate. In other words, pay the ransom.

The gentleman at UAB told me that even the FBI says this is your only recourse if you become a victim of such a scam.
In the last 24 hours, I’ve learned just a wee bit about a world I’d never heard of.

A world where the currency is something known as Bit Coins that are a virtual currency and can not be traced. A world of an alternative internet that is basically beyond the reach of the law.

I have also made contact with “David” who has given me a website where you buy bit coins and vague info as to how to proceed. In the meantime I had my computer “wiped clean” once again, which means I am now having to reset passwords (and trying to remember them) and such. Three months shy of my 73rd birthday I can promise that this is a headache I never wanted to face — and pray that you never will.

The one thing I have learned is that had I used “the cloud” to back up all my files, they would have been retrievable and I could tell my Russian friend “David” what I really think of him.

Keep your fingers crossed for me if you will.