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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017 1:00 am

Hackers constant thorn in internet

Be wary, diligent with your email

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

I'm not what you could call a computer geek, but that doesn't mean I don't know anything about computers.

I worked at a newspaper that was one of the first in the country to get a computer system so we didn't have to slam out stories on those big, noisy Underwood typewriters.

Using a computer is a little easier on your fingertips, especially if you tend to lose circulation in your fingers in winter. But everything comes at a price. We had to learn our own coding system that would indicate the type size, typeface, leading, column width, location and length of notches if you wanted to put a photo of someone in a story, and so on.

It was tedious, and if you accidentally typed a “q” in a story the computer would lock up because a “q” was used as a command key that had to be followed by either a “u” or some coding. The idea was that there was no word with a “q” not followed by a u. No one had heard of Iraq back then, I guess.

And every time you changed jobs or the paper bought a new computer system, you had to learn new coding and a new way of doing everything.

Then came the internet, but it didn't necessarily make things easier.

People gripe about fake news today, but the internet is full of just plain bad information, things that are outright lies or wrong because someone doesn't know what he's talking about.

Then came email.

Time was, if you needed some documents and they were far away, you'd have to beg someone to mail you copies. It would take days, if they came at all. Email made it easy. You could get documents, pictures, anything you wanted in minutes.

In time, we have come to rely on email for almost all our news releases. It saves someone else on postage and paper.

But about 90 percent of the emails I get are what they used to call spam – people trying to sell me something, scams and so on. You learn to spot those and kill them in a hurry without opening them. We also learned never to open an attachment or link on an email unless you were expecting it, knew who it was from and what the attachment was about.

That's good advice. But it's apparently a lesson a slew of people haven't learned.

Over the weekend, hundreds of countries and thousands of businesses have been attacked and hundreds of thousands of computers have been rendered useless because people have clicked on attachments or links carrying WannaCry malware. To get your computer and files back, you have to pay a ransom. All because someone clicked on an attachment or link without thinking.

The U.S. was largely spared, but experts say a new attack is almost certainly coming.

Don't you love the internet? The only place where half the facts are wrong and where strangers in another part of the world can wipe out your bank account or investment account, steal your Social Security or shut down your business.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.