Paranoia can attack as fast as a virus on your computer.
The other day, my laptop sent out a whole bunch of emails that I'd sent out last year, again. People wrote me to let me know.
So I had the feeling I was being watched. That my computer had been taken over by evil spirits.
I never had anything like this happen. And I switched from my old antivirus software to Norton a couple of months ago. I felt secure.
But Norton — who, by the way, has the most foreboding music as you wait on hold — told me I'm protected from stealth attackers who try to worm their way into my system. But what if I, a cautious person who knows better than to open an attachment of unknown origins, was compromised due to my own actions, however inadvertent? Basically, they said, tough luck.
Unless I wanted to spend $99. Then they could take remote control of my computer and fix it. Otherwise I could try their free virus cleaning program that might wipe out a lot of important stuff, too. I was frustrated, believing the reason to buy protection was to be safe from viruses that came from any direction.
One thing led to another and finally, they decided they should help me. The supervisor's supervisor gave me a number to call. Only belatedly did I worry that she'd really given me the number of her cousin Guido.
Because as Guido (not his real name) at Norton took control of my computer, I started second-guessing myself as I watched his cursor move around my desktop. Was this really Norton? Was it all part of an elaborate plot to get into my private data? Should I make sure the front door was locked?
I watched every move his cursor made. He wanted to do more — remove my previous antivirus program and update Norton. Even though it made perfect sense, I didn't want him to. I just wanted him to check for bogeymen and then get the heck out of there.
So here he was, going above and beyond to be helpful as I worried I was being scammed. In the end, he said I had no virus, that someone probably had managed to get my email sign-on information and all I had to do was change my password. And we parted ways.
But when I restarted my computer, the window giving him access was still open. I wrote that to him and he typed back that he would terminate it himself, which he did. But did he? It looked like he did. How did I really know?
Having a computer is way too stressful. I wanted to disconnect from the outside world and stay that way. But I am hopelessly dependent on it.
Just in case, I'm sleeping with the lights on.
Kathy Gibbons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.