If there’s something that strikes the fear of god in me, it’s a Trojan horse, trotting round my computer and grazing on the contents of my hard drive.
It’s probably because I know it would leave my computer, a lifeline in both my expat and professional existence, with an electronic version of the bubonic plague, that would signal the death knell to every single file stored on my laptop.
When I overheard my mother on the phone today, talking about Trojan horses in a raised, slightly alarmed voice, my ears pricked up.
“Which computer?” I heard her say, irately. “We’ve got at least four here.” (My mum worked in computers from day one, when they were so big they filled an entire floor and had to be fed with tickertape).
But, it turns out, spending decades as a programmer isn’t enough to make you 100 per cent sure that the disembodied female voice on the line, telling you there’s a malicious virus she can fix, is actually a hacker.
My mum put the phone on speaker volume so I could hear.
“I’m calling from the world-wide web,” said the woman.
“The main server. Have you heard of www?” she asked. (Erm, yes!)
I know it sounds obvious now, but at the time, there’s a little bit of you that thinks, goodness, the world-wide web is actually calling us! (It’s a very clever piece of technology, after all.)
The woman, who even appeared to have my mother’s computer IP address, told her to switch the PC on so she could save vital software from being damaged.
Thank goodness my mum didn’t, and at this point I started waving my arms frantically, then practically yelling, “Put the phone down!” – which she did.
It rang again.
The caller tried one last time to persuade us, then didn’t bother us again. But, you can really see how some people would be taken in, and either end up getting hacked, or parting with money to fix the fake ‘problem’.
Be warned – it’s a scam lots of people have fallen for, and the hoaxers, usually with Indian accents, sometimes claim to be from Microsoft, or Windows – slightly more convincing than the world-wide web’s main server, wherever on earth that is! (Does anyone know, out of interest?)