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Former long-time business editor of major US women's magazine and contributing editor at dozens of different "trade" and consumer publications. Author of over 3,000 print magazine articles in past 30 years. Penn Ph.D., centrist Republican. Please visit my blogsites: Baby Boomers-The... More
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Capital Punishment - Markets Through the Looking Glass
  • Blind Woman's Bluff - Market World of Warcraft  5 comments
    Jun 6, 2010 2:56 PM
    by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.
    Of all the technical indicators around, none is as accurate at predicting market or sector turning points as the deliberate crashing of my computer system. If my poor little PC is weeping buckets of computer-tears and writhing in computer-pain – trust me, something wonderful or dreadful is about to happen to the markets.
    My two recent computer breakdowns from within my brokerage account were the first ever – in more than twelve years – to occur while using an Ameritrade site. They were also the first destructive breakdowns of any kind to happen to my fairly new – purchased 16 months ago - Vista-based computer system.
    But in the early days of my encounters with my Hacker-Short-Seller-Tormentors, computer system destruction was the weapon of choice, applied so consistently at key market moments, I clearly should have attempted to sell monitoring rights to institutional investors or government agencies seeking to get a better handle on the markets.
    Was a sector in which I owned a significant position about to get very good news or very bad news momentarily? Ka-boom! Kaput! Bye-bye, Computer!
    Was a particular company I was following about to soar or to falter? Uh-oh, there went my system again.
    Was the entire market about to go up 800 points or down 1800 points? Couldn’t take the chance that I’d snag the top or the bottom. Absolutely necessary to take me – The Enemy – out of the game.
    Does all of this sound unbelievable, unimaginable, idiotic, and extraordinarily childish to you?
    That makes two of us! Because normal human beings don’t act like this. Normal human beings – even if they are Master-of-the-Universe spolled and privileged Kiddie Short-side Traders — don’t believe that playing a cat-and-mouse game with such Guardians of the Internet as Microsoft, Verisign, Intel, and Sun in order to pulverize The Enemy’s driver codes and other system essentials is a “justifiable trading strategy” or a justifiable life strategy.
    But that’s just us.
    To my Tormentors, anything was OK, so long as they didn’t get caught. And they didn’t. Despite my pleas, my desperate entreaties to everyone from Homeland Security to Interpol to the the SEC to the Pope and the Dalai Lama – OK, I made the last two up -  no one in a position of influence seemed to be able to do anything to stop these constant crashes.
    In the first eight years of my battles with Tormentor-Hacker-Shorts, from about 1998 until 2006 or so, I lost five entire computer systems, literally broken down so many times and to such an extent, they eventually became unrestorable and unfixable.

    For the rest of the story:

    Disclosure: None
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  • dfbell
    , contributor
    Comments (1555) | Send Message
    (whispering in your ear) ... mac
    7 Jun 2010, 07:44 AM Reply Like
  • Derek A. Barrett
    , contributor
    Comments (3534) | Send Message
    This is very interesting, though very sorry for your being tormented. I do technology for a living, and what you described happens all the time. There are all sorts of insidious games that go on, especially when billions of dollars are at stake. Interesting you mentioned World of Warcraft, as stealing people's accounts through keylogging is a multi-million dollar business.


    Can you describe what type of attacks these were? It sounds like you got a rootkit which deleted your OS completely so that it wouldn't boot up.


    If you can't switch off Windows, and you don't like Macs (I don't like them personally) one thing that you may want to try is the following. Keep in mind this will only work on a PC with nothing installed on it yet. Don't try it on a PC with Windows already installed.


    1) Install some sort of desktop Linux on your PC (free)
    2) Install Oracle Virtualbox on PC (free)
    3) Install Windows inside the Virtualbox
    4) "Snapshot" your Windows install


    So basically you are running Windows inside of the Virtualbox environment. This means it's encapsulated and protected inside of Linux, which should cut down alot of the Windows hacks dramatically. Even if a hacker succeeds, you would have your Windows snapshot ready to go, and can restore it super quickly (like within 5 minutes) to the state it was before you got hacked.


    This sounds like a pain in the azz, but once you get it setup it's actually pretty convenient, and Linux and Virtualbox are free to download and install.


    Not sure that is worth your time but something to think about.


    Also, if you haven't already, your PC should be behind a router, and not directly connected to the internet.


    Also, Malwarebytes is a good program to download and scan your computer for any stupid programs that have gotten their way onto it.


    You can also try to connect your trading tools through an anonymous proxy server, which will mask your location, though I have never tried any Ameritrade tools through them. This may have prevented them from finding you at the library, they would try to reverse trace you and end up with some address in Bahrain or Sri Lanka or something.


    Probably all the computers at the library were connecting through a proxy server, so they couldn't tell which PC you were using, since they all showed up with the same address, so they had to take them all down to get yours.
    24 Jun 2010, 02:42 PM Reply Like
  • dfbell
    , contributor
    Comments (1555) | Send Message
    or hire someone to do it for you.
    24 Jun 2010, 02:50 PM Reply Like
  • Derek A. Barrett
    , contributor
    Comments (3534) | Send Message
    Yah, I agree. I think on her full article on the blog she mentioned a reason she didn't want to hire someone.


    It would probably be worth the money though to hire someone, as the cost will pay for itself if it can prevent some hacker attacks.


    From what she's describing, it sounds like her PC is wide open to the world.
    24 Jun 2010, 07:26 PM Reply Like
  • Venerability
    , contributor
    Comments (3048) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Thanks for your comments.


    I am making fixes computer-wise.


    But the real point of the series, as you'll see in future stories, is that financial firms have allowed some very miserable, nasty little sociopaths to work for them in recent years.


    In fact, we've had a climate in our financial markets that not only encourages, but sometimes highly rewards, sociopathic behavior.


    It has to stop.


    Companies must investigate abuses perpetrated by their proprietary traders, rogue or otherwise. And regulators and politicians must get behind what are essentially moral reforms, even more than the organizational reforms they're concentrating on so far.


    Everyone within the financial sector should want the kind of house-cleaning and ethical recalibration I'm talking about.


    Because pretty much this entire country has little or no trust left in the integrity of our financial institutions.


    Until that trust is restored, this is a dying industry, which benefits no one - not even the sociopaths themselves.
    24 Jun 2010, 11:53 PM Reply Like
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