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Helping an elderly neighbor - insidious malware


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An elderly neighbor fell victim to the Apple Care scam. They made off with everything - she's up there in years and just thought that the call was legit. The number calling him said it was from Apple. 

Yeah, I know. We ALL know better. But an 80-yr-old didn't. And they got his email account and credit cards and took all his money. And we know it won't stop there. Sigh. 

He's recently out of chemo, so he blames chemo brain. 

So yes. I'm doing tech support. It's the least I can do. He and his wife have been great neighbors over the years. They'll be moving soon and he can't keep up the house. Plus, I just feel so awful for them.

Since the hackers got into the terminal (they left a window open), they've made changes so that he doesn't have access to Sys Preferences Security. The MacBook won't allow any malware removal app. They also made it so that the drive can't be formatted. 

Fortunately, they don't use the computer much for anything, so they were fine with me blowing it away - had to boot into recovery to nuke the drive. 

But I'm still suspicious. What if there's something nefarious in the firmware? 

I did an SMC and PRAM reset. But I wanted to do something more. Since they never updated their laptop (THAT they thought might be a virus - go figure) I asked if I could update it for them. It's on El Cap. 

Question: would updating to Mojave force a firmware update?

And can you think of anything else I can do to this machine to give them some sense of safety? I've had the talk about 1Password and I think their eyes sort of glazed over, but they're willing to try. They DO understand now that NO ONE will ever call them to ask for personal information. Not a credit card company, a government official, the police, insurance... no one. 

I know, I know. I now 'own' this machine as far as tech support. But really guys. I just can't walk away and do nothing. What if it were your grandparents or elderly grandparents? I know they're in a world of pain with everything that will eventually rain down in them, but at least I can give them their computer back. He says a nephew is helping them with the bank, etc. 

So what about flashing or updating the firmware? Should an update to Mojave do the trick? Is this machine now a paperweight? I'd like to think with a few good erases, a firmware update, and a fresh clean install makes it useful. 

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By the way, not sure that it matters, but the couple has an early 2015 MacBook Pro.