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Issue #533: October 8-14, 2017

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Q: I’m 99.9% certain that an ex-friend has “invaded” my confuser and has somehow stopped my emails from reaching the place I’ve sent them to.  This person was a long time co-worker and friend. At the start of the recent elections he became hostile to anyone that did not agree with him, so he used an “I’ll show you” approach. He has a room full of computers, and spends 8 to 10 hours a day on them, so he knows a lot. He also knows someone else who is a very good friend of mine, so he – I don’t know what to call it –  infected my email so that every time I try to send something to my friend, almost at once a red pop-up claims that it cannot be sent because of spam. He also did that when I wrote to another friend, but that went away in about a week.  I would like to know how to get rid of this infection. I have Kaspersky anti-malware and another (free) protection program.  I now have to send messages for my friend halfway around the world to a friend in New Zealand, and she passes it on for me.  This has become very serious, and I’ve spent a heap of money for little in return. How do I fix this, or who may I call, and pay, to come in and get rid of this block?

– Dick R.
Crestview, Florida

A:  This sounds like quite a story of mystery and intrigue to me, Dick.  If what you have recounted is accurate, it sounds as if your ex-friend may have committed a number of legally questionable, if not outright criminal acts on your computer.  Of course, I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t portend to offer legal advice.  I will say that if such a thing happened to me, and I suspected someone had accessed my computer without my permission, tampered with the system settings, and blocked my legitimate communications, I’d probably be contacting the authorities first before that Geek-guy in the newspaper.

Having dispensed with the legal mumbo-jumbo, let’s discuss the technical aspects of your problem.  Let me start by saying that I have never before seen nor heard of anything such as you’ve described.  In fact, pretty much every situation I’ve run up against with malfunctioning e-mail was eventually traced far more mundane things, like misconfigured account settings, mail server problems, permission errors, and so on.  Nevertheless, in the interest of trying to help, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that everything you described is true.  So, first of all, we know that the ability to send e-mails is not completely blocked, since at the very least, you can send to your friend in New Zealand.  That would tend to eliminate outbound server configuration errors.  Assuming everything else is working properly, based on your description, it sounds like some sort of filter is reacting to block only e-mails that are sent to that specific e-mail address.  Personally, I don’t really see the value of something like that, since it’s so easy to defeat, such as routing your e-mail through a 3rd-party, as you are presently doing. 

I would have liked to see the actual text of the rejection dialog that you receive, to try and do further research.  Without seeing the problem in action for myself, I really can’t even speculate on the cause.  You implied in your question that you’ve already paid someone to look into the problem for you, so I think anything I might suggest about taking it somewhere would have little added value.  I don’t know what the people you’ve paid did for you, but I would have thought that if they couldn’t find an actual problem that was interfering with your e-mail, they would have simply chalked it up to malware, and reloaded Windows.

In this Geek’s opinion, if you truly believe your e-mail account has been compromised, the simplest solution is to simply stop using that account.  Abandon it, and set up a new one.  You should be able to do that through your Internet provider, or by using any of the many free e-mail services online.  Then change all your passwords, including those on your network router.  Do everything you can to lock-out your former friend, and you should be e-mailing away like you were before all that election ugliness.

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