Protect Yourself from CryptoLocker

So I was going to write a post about Tesla's big beat after the market yesterday and how the stock is off to the races today, but I came across a computer virus yesterday that was so nasty I wanted to make you guys aware of it so you don't get victimized.

I do a bit of IT consulting on the side for C-level guys who are technophobic. I was scheduled to do a training with one such CEO yesterday, when he asked me if I'd ever heard of CryptoLocker and was it some kind of service. In fact I had heard of CryptoLocker recently on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, and the fact that this CEO was asking me about it could only mean one thing: he was infected. Sure enough, he said a timer had popped up on his desktop, his files had been stolen, and he had 72 hours to pay $400 through Bitcoin to get his files back or they'd be deleted forever.

Unfortunately, this thing is for real. It comes disguised as an email from UPS or FedEx with tracking information in PDF format attached, only it ain't a PDF. It's a double-extension executable file that installs itself on your hard drive, steals and encrypts all your files, and then demands a ransom for you to recover them. Because the ransom is paid with Bitcoin, it's impossible to track where the money is going. Up to now, the hackers have been true to their word and have returned the files once the ransom has been paid.

Private Jet Travel Becoming More Affordable

This is one trend I can really get behind. Those of you who've read my stuff on travel know that the thing I hate most in life is commercial air travel. I largely blame the knee-jerk reaction of the US to September 11 for most of the added misery, but the airlines are pretty awful in their own right for putting people on top of one another and refusing to take off before every plane is bursting at the seams. So I'm very encouraged to see the price of private jet travel coming way down. The following trip to Switzerland for my family would cost $2,000 commercially, so to think I could eliminate all the misery for only $6,000 more makes it really tempting. I wonder what all the poor people on RyanAir think of this:

Monday @Mentions February 17, 2014

Thread of the Week:

@"big unit" leads us off this week with his informative thread on all things credit entitled, Focus on the downside: brushing up on credit skills. The post got a whopping 21 Silver Bananas, as well as 2 Tweets, 2 Google +1s, and a Facebook Like.

Comment of the Week:

No contest here. @"TurquoiseHexagon" wrote one of the heaviest comments in the history of WSO in response to UPenn Suicides - What's Going On Here?. His comment described the feelings one has before writing a suicide note (I can only assume this was written from the standpoint of personal experience, which makes it even more powerful) and why we all need to be more sensitive to mental illness. The comment brought in 15 Silver Bananas and much respect.

Caption Contest Winner:

This week's Caption Contest winner is @"pphi" with her zinger directed at our pal Brian DeChesare of M&I. Well done. Here's your shirt.

Bonus Bananas February 14, 2014

1) The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet (Rolling Stone) - When is a bank no longer a bank? Matt Taibbi does it again. His analogy about letting the guys who run a Vegas sports book coach NFL teams on Sunday is right on the money.

2) Stock traders move into the laser age in pursuit of lightning-fast deals (The Verge) - The quest for zero latency has officially gone laser. You know what's cooler than 4 milliseconds latency? 3 milliseconds.

3) Soros Ex Got Violent During Deposition: Lawyer (FIN Alternatives) - Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned who sold her ass to a decrepit billionaire for a sweet pad and then got hosed when he met somebody hotter. Evidently Big George's ex-girlfriend lost her shit during a deposition last week and came across the table. She smacked Soros's lawyer, called Soros an asshole and a piece of shit, and then took her own lawyer apart. Ain't love grand?

Comcast & Time Warner Join Forces to Provide Worst Internet Service on Earth

Did you feel that? The Internet just got a hell of a lot slower. After more than a decade of battling each other for the honors of worst Internet experience, Comcast and Time Warner are joining forces to suck harder together than any single Internet service provider ever has in the history of the World Wide Web. Until now, most areas of the US have only had to suffer either Comcast or Time Warner. Now everyone will get to suffer both. Meanwhile, South Koreans will soon be able to download an entire movie in ONE SECOND.

Under the terms of the deal, Time Warner Cable shareholders will receive 2.875 shares of newly issued Comcast common stock for each of their shares, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday evening. Based on Comcast’s closing price of $55.24 on Wednesday, that values each Time Warner Cable share at about $158.82 each.
For Comcast, the deal, extending its leadership in the cable industry, is another transformative step in the evolution of what is now America’s most influential media company. It comes less than a year after Comcast completed the acquisition of NBC Universal And it will further extend Comcast’s lead as the nation’s largest cable operator.

Enraged Bitcoin Users Smash Their iPhones

(Disclosure: I'm long Bitcoin, no position in AAPL at the moment)

I found the following pretty amusing and thought you guys might as well. I'm a big supporter of Bitcoin because I see the amazing potential (beyond even currency) in it, but some Bitcoiners are downright evangelical about it. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see the violent reaction by some in the Bitcoin community to Apple's removing the Blockchain app from the App Store for no apparent reason last week. Many think it's because Apple is about to introduce a competing payment processing platform, but who really knows? I happen to think buying Bitcoin at this moment is akin to buying shares in the Internet in 1994. It's entirely possible that I'm wrong, but I won't risk not capitalizing on lightning striking twice. I just think it's ironic that Apple is making a conscious decision to alienate the very demographic that brought them to the dance: early-adopting technophiles who think they're something special (no better definition of the Bitcoin crowd). At least they were good enough to video themselves smashing their iPhones:

Monday @Mentions February 10, 2014

Thread of the Week:

How cool is this? The Thread of the Week is actually a former comment on another thread! Mind...blown. Of course I'm talking about @"Marcus_Halberstram"'s epic takedown on mediocrity entitled, "Laziness and the Merits of Hard Work". He made the comment way back in 2010, but it's just as poignant today. The post earned him 21 Silver Bananas, 6 Facebook Likes, 3 Tweets, and a LinkedIn Share. Once again Marcus delivers the goods.

Comment of the Week:

@"big unit" scores the comment of the week on last Friday's Bonus Bananas. His mini-screed pointing out the hypocrisy of a young woman who decided not to work at Goldman after Goldman decided she didn't make the cut was both spot on and hilarious. The comment earned him 4 Silver Bananas. Tied in the Silver Banana count was @"Hugh Myron"'s comment on I F@#$%^ up my lunch run, help me fix the damage! wondering which was the more prestigious hot wing: boneless or bone in? You know what? I just put him over the top with another Silver Banana because his username cracks me up. You bet your ass I'm mirin.

Caption Contest Winner:

This week's Caption Contest winner is @"animalz" with his riff on both Rihanna and @"bankerella". Well done, sir. Have a t-shirt.

Why Is Peter Schiff Destroying His Brand?

This has me utterly baffled. Peter Schiff is a pretty bright guy, and for a long time he's been a vocal advocate of the sound money and libertarian economic viewpoints. That's why I'm wondering if he's had a stroke recently, because he's done more to marginalize his own point of view over the past six weeks than the army of his detractors has managed in the past decade.

Near as I can tell, he started jumping the shark in December when he posted a video of himself ostensibly protesting against Wal-Mart workers protesting for higher wages. It was tongue in cheek, and not a completely outlandish point to make, but it begs the question: where does a millionaire CEO find the time to protest against minimum wage workers in a Wal-Mart parking lot? And why the hell would he?

It was all downhill from there. He appeared on Joe Rogan's podcast on January 22 and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He spent three solid hours railing against government regulation of any kind and, when pressed on the environmental impact of disasters like the BP spill and the growing sentiment against fracking, his attitude was basically, "F the environment, I'm getting paid."

But the piece de resistance was his appearance on The Daily Show last Tuesday, where he opined that people should work for anything they can get, and that the mentally retarded should be happy to get $2 an hour.

Why Your Salary Matters to Her

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from January 2011 . If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

When women get together with their friends and talk about the new guy in their life, one of the first questions that always comes up is, "What does he do?", which - let's face it - is code for, "How much does he make?". Your salary matters to women. Going all the way back to caveman days, women have always sought mates who could protect and provide. It's no different today.

But in today's world of empowered females, why does your salary still matter so much? Professional women today earn as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts. Yet these women expect even more from their mates than women who don't make as much. What gives? has an interview that may shed some light on the subject.

Bonus Bananas February 7, 2014

1) Ex-SAC Trader Convicted of Securities Fraud (Dealbook) - With this conviction, Preet Bharara is now 79-0 against Wall Street. If I were Stevie Cohen I'd be looking to take my show on the road most ricky-fucking-tick.

2) How A Duke Undergrad With No Finance Background Got Lured By Goldman Sachs (Business Insider) - This is a pretty cool piece written by a young woman who is probably very typical: got into a decent school without knowing where she wanted to go in life, and then got seduced by the promise of an early pay-off in banking. I have to believe that people like that make up the majority of applicants these days.

3) No jail for 'affluenza' teen in fatal crash draws outrage (USA Today) - Pretty egregious case of entitlement run amok, but you can't blame the kid. He's just doing what anyone would do in his position: whatever he has to in order to get off. I think it's pretty safe to call this a miscarriage of justice, though. If we start letting rich kids get away with killing people because they're too spoiled to know it's wrong, that's a very dark place to tread.