We are safe! We have anti-virus software!

It's been one of those days. On my way to an appointment with a (hopefully future) client I got a call to let me know that said client had been rushed into hospital with acute and worrying symptoms. Planning-wise, things went downhill from there.

In an attempt to salvage at least some of my workday, I managed to pop in with another client this afternoon to discuss proposals for a company logo. Because such a thing really has to be presented and discussed, it's much easier to have them on paper. Which is fine... Except, being professionally involved with graphics, I do not have a color printer. Inkjet printers are a pain in this climate as the nozzles are virtually garantueed to terminally clog up within days, and ink is bizarrely expensive - even within the context of printer ink being ridiculously overpriced worldwide to begin with. And the budget does not (yet) allow for a color laser printer. So on my way to the client I made a stop at the local digital print shop, which normally works fine for me. But not today.

One of the guys (a new one, a pimply-faced youth with a radical hairdo who communicated mostly in grunts and mumbles) took my USB stick and plugged it into the computer. Nothing happened for a while, and then an anti-virus message popped up. "Yes, we've been having that all day long", he said. "We've been hit with a virus somehow." Nice. So I felt obliged to point out to him that, a.) his anti-virus software would work better if it weren't weeks out of date (this being a stand-alone machine) and b.) that plugging his clients' USB sticks into a machine he knows to be infected with a virus is hardly an example of good service. "No problem", he said, "the anti-virus software has stopped it before it infected your USB stick." Really? Permit me to doubt you, my friend. Anyway, all PCs in the print shop were terminally stuffed up and none would even print. So I was obliged to take my business elsewhere, which necessitated a detour past the local Postnet office - a pain because it's out of my way, it is more expensive, and the people who work there are morons.

The moron factor was once again demonstrated when I arrived, and requested some printing. The lady at the counter plugged my USB stick into a stand-alone machine first, because "We always have to do a virus check, sir". Okaaayy... So up comes a window in which Kaspersky Anti-virus starts to do a number on my USB stick. Which happened to be full of networking tools, so scanning it took forever. But guess what: the only thing with whch Kaspersky came up was the spyware in an ancient eDonkey client that was still kicking around in one of the directories and that I haven't used since the turn of the century. According to Kaspersky, everything else was fine. Uh-huh.

When she plugged my USB stick into a second machine to print the four JPEG files in the root of the stick, nothing would work. We could see the files, but not print them. So I took my stick back and plugged it into my Ubuntu laptop to see what was going on. And guess what - all JPEG files had been replaced with shortcuts to a suspicious .EXE file that never used to be there; there was an autorun.inf file that was new as well, and a whole lot of other stuff that had been modified. And Kaspersky (which was of course also way out of date because this, too, was a stand-alone machine) never noticed anything.

Great. So I reformatted the stick, copied the four JPG files onto it and, lo and behold, now they would print. Woohoo.

Anyway. The moral of the story is, once again, that the user is and will always be the weakest link in the computer security chain. Which isn't exactly news... but I wonder if they still make memory sticks with write-protect switches on them, like the first one I used to have, many years ago. With users like these, we need 'em.


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