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Almanac Cyber Crime: There are experts and there are experts!

Several people have asked me about my lost files, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

I have them back!

After six days of tears of despair, the salty drops of relief spurt forth once again the afternoon I was told everything was fine.

My computer screen looked like this before some nasty crooks decided to invade my space.

It took just a split second, at precisely 5.45pm on June 6th, for it to change dramatically. Twenty five or so small white pages appeared on the screen with the word encrypted and a long number below each one.

I immediately phoned the experts. Waited for 45 minutes, and the guy did as all experts do – logged into my computer, went into all sorts of places unknown to me, and said he’d speak with a supervisor and get back to me. At 9.45pm he called back. He seemed unsure. I then pointed out to him one of the white page images that said Your important files.. (he hadn’t noticed it earlier!), he opened it and said “You’ve been hacked!” It was the note from the crooks, giving an email address to contact if we wanted to purchase a decryption device. I was warned not to correspond with them, and was told “Close the computer and disconnect the back–up hard–drive. We close now, it’s 10pm, but we’ll call you back at 8am in the morning”.

They didn’t call back. I called them at 8am and waited until 9am. A second expert confirmed that all files had been encrypted, and I should close the computer until I got someone in to sort it all out, and not to contact the crooks. My sister did email them and dished up a big sob story, pleading with them to do the decent thing.

I then had to leave to drive to Sydney for our game against West Coast. My anger, anxiety and grief were described in my article that week.

I returned to Melbourne on the Tuesday evening, to be greeted by two more emails from the crooks, wanting me to send them one of the encrypted files. I did, along with a message that if they one ounce of decent human kindness, they would send the appropriate link to decrypt the files.

Wednesday morning I was referred to two different experts at different companies. They too said I’d lost everything. The tears kept coming. That evening an email came from the crooks, not with a ransom amount but with an image of the encrypted file I’d sent them, now looking as it should, and a link that looked as if it was a decrypter. I didn’t open it.

Thursday morning I then decided to phone the first company I’d spoken to – a well known and reputable firm we’ve been dealing with for many years – hoping that a fresh face could throw more light on where to go next.

He fiddled around inside the computer, and fifteen minutes later said “Jan, all of your files are here, you’ve only lost what was on the desktop!” “Where, oh my God, where are they, where?” I mumbled through quivering lips. He showed me. “Why, why on earth didn’t the other experts do as you have done?” He couldn’t answer. I was flabbergasted!

Not being a computer expert, the only way I’ve always accessed all of my files, is via a shortcut on the desktop. These short cuts had also been encrypted. I didn’t even know that one of the icons along the bottom of the screen was where files could be opened.

I then phoned the Geeks people. They came, cleaned the entire computer, installed a new back–up hard drive, reinstalled Photoshop and other programs I’d lost, and insisted I don’t open the link the crooks had sent, even though I was really interested to see whether they had in fact had one ounce of decent human kindness!

As the expert was about to leave the house I couldn’t help but saying “Oh, God, I want to give you a gig, fat hug!” He kept walking, with a smile on his face.

The tears of relief came. They lasted on and off for hours. I simply can’t tell you what it felt like, even though, through the whole process, I was trying very hard to get the perspective juices flowing.

The stories I have been told about cyber theft, ransomware, malware, hacking and phishing are beyond belief, and in my own very small say, I am now doing everything possible to make sure this doesn’t happen to me again. It can happen to any one of us, at any time, at any place, and I tell you, it is one very nasty experience.

I am extremely grateful that at least one of the five experts I dealt with knew what he was doing, but now realise only too well that there are experts, and there are, indeed, experts!



For more from Jan, CLICK HERE:


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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. John Butler says

    Glad this worked out ok Jan. But it is stressful.

    The golden rule here is that a regular backup of your files is your best friend.

    And you can take it for granted the people who deploy this sort of rubbish have no decency. They’re criminals.

    Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date folks!

  2. Jan – you and your computer are just like your Swans – indomitable. Just when we think they have disappeared to the bottom for a root and branch rebuild, they just keep popping up again. Cheer. Cheer.

  3. Jan, as you know I always enjoy your regular columns in the Almanac. I told my son David, who works with computers and really knows his stuff (unlike me -still learning) about your plight. I am so pleased for you that every thing has been resolved for you. I’ll inform David, I know he’ll be pleased for you.

    Obviously you can now concentrate on enjoying your beloved Bloods and keep the articles coming.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    I love a happy ending! Very pleased for you Jan.

  5. Lynn Baker says

    Jan, the news that you have retrieved your files has made my day !
    So pleased for you Jan , thank you for letting us know …. I often thought of you and your predicament and hoped for a happy ending !
    You now have one and we are all relieved !!!
    Best wishes Jan .

    Cheer Cheer
    Go our Mighty Bloods !

  6. Very kind of you all! Thank you!

    John, I did have it all backed up, but the back-up was decrypted because it was plugged into the computer! Thanks for the advice.

    Peter: I like the analogy!

    Fisho: Thanks for chatting with David about the issue – every but of advice helps!

    Luke: Again, thanks!

    Lynn: It made my day too! Go our Mighty Bloods!

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