Monday, January 12, 2009

Tech Support

Oh I know I've done a rant or two about how much "help" I get from Tech Support.  It's not unusual for me to actually know more about my problem than the first two levels of Tech Support that I manange to whine my way through.

My kids, of course, don't pay any attention at all to what I say when it comes to their computers.  I have threatened them about installing strange software or clicking on any links that might pop up on the webpages the peruse.

The biggest problem with my kids' computers is related to Maplestory.  Maplestory in the online game my kids have become addicted to, it's a childish verison of WoW.  Lucky me.  The worst part is that the game HAS to be run in Administrator mode.  I've been forced to grant them administrative privileges on their computers so they can run this stupid program.

It was only a few weeks ago that one of my kids managed to download some inocuous malware.  I was able to get rid of it after a spyware scan.  What really bothered me about it was the fact that he'd had it for a while before he even bothered to mention it to me.  I gave them both the lecture, removed Safari and forced them to use FireFox after I installed WOT (Web Of Trust) add-on.  I explained that they should never ever click anything marked as Red by WOT.  I think they "got" that and promised not to click anything dangerous again.

I popped down to the basement today and noticed an icon in the system tray that hadn't been there before.  I opened it up and figured out it was something we definitely didn't want: a virtual private network (VPN).  I just about came unglued.

I promptly uninstalled it from both machines and grilled the little rocket scientists about how it got on their computers.  "I don't know," doesn't sound good in stereo.  Much yelling and screaming ensued - Zooks was totally pissed off and new I was being lied to.

It was surprisingly difficult to convince them that I thought I had a much bigger problem if they "didn't know how it got on there" than if they did and just weren't admitting to it.  Clearly they can't be trusted with such high tech equipment if software could get installed on  their computer without them being aware it.  After much discussion the oldest admitted that another player on Maplestory hounded him for days on end to download and install the software so he finally did it to shut him up.


Peer pressure.

Epic Fail.

This boy never even thought to mention this to me.  Not once.  He did say he reported the guy many times but he continued to harrass him.  So, in his infinite wisdom he just went ahead and installed this software.

I explained to him in great detail what he did, how wrong it was, and how I will never be able to trust him again on that computer.  I will have to inspect his computer on a daily basis just to make sure nothing else is going to pop up out of the blue.

I thought computers were supposed to make your life easier.  Silly me.


nzgreen said...

Warning: this comment contains some Linux evangelism.

Install Linux on the kid's machines and let them go to town. They won't be able to break it. Give them privileges to run Windows in a virtual machine that you control. You can set it up so every time they boot Windows to play their games it goes back to a consistent state (these are called snapshots). If any spyware or viruses get on there reboot Windows and viola it's gone. If they want to install some software permanently they have to get you to do it for them (so you can create a new snapshot).

It'll require a bit of time to set up, but I'm sure you'll have less headaches down the line. I'll gladly help you get it up and running.

OhCaptain said...

You can do the same kind of virtualization that nzgreen recommends with almost any operating system. Heck, I've even got virtual Windows environments running in, um, windows.

As an IT guy, I'm more concerned with the short term and that VPN software. That was a hole punched into your security. Someone had direct access logged in as your admin account on your network. Call me paranoid, but I'd start changing passwords and try to find out why someone would need VPN software on your machines.

Gadzooks64 said...

Thanks for the comments.

They admitted to installing the VPN software themselves and I verified that to be true. I uninstalled the VPN ASAP. It doesn't look like anything unusual happened because of it or that anybody tried to access their machines using it.

I explained to the boys that if one more piece of software gets on those machines that I didn't authorize they will be banned from MapleStory and their accounts will be switched to user accounts with no download privileges.

The Linux idea is very tempting. I'll let you know if I decide to do that.

am said...

As a noted parental authority, I would just delete the kids.

Erwin Blonk said...

I'm the only one here with admin privileges. Under XP I'm mr. RunAs and now with Vista I loce the UAC, it makes life a lot easier for me. On my other machine, I'm pushing Linux, I want my kids to be at least bi-OS, I'll throw in Apple if I have the cash to spend on the Little Evil Empire.

Gadzooks64 said...

My oldest would LOVE to have a MacBook. Yeah, uh huh, dream big little boy.

I told him when he moves out, gets a job and can afford to buy one with his own money.

I disabled the UAC on my accounts. Most annoying thing about Vista IMO.