“Lock your computer”

Posted April 1, 2019 in Miscellaneous


This post is a little different than my usual, bubbly, CSS and self-help oriented content. I want to share a scary thing that’s been happening over the past few months to my personal laptop in the hopes that you can prevent it happening to yours.

It started about 2 months ago during a trip to New York. All of a sudden, every few minutes, a robot voice would say, “Lock your computer”. Sometimes I use VoiceOver to test websites with a screen reader, but it was a different tone of voice, one I didn’t recall hearing before.

I did everything I could think of to try to get rid of it, except wiping my hard drive because I don’t have proper backups and that would be a major pain in the ass. I reset PRAM, booted into Safe Mode, deleted the Caches directory. What’s more, I couldn’t find anything online about other people having this issue. After about a week it seemed to go away by itself, which is lucky because I didn’t have Apple Care for this computer to call support about it.

But then, last week, the voice started up again after being silent for over month. I started to feel extremely paranoid, and realized that this is something I need to deal with. I felt controlled by technology, something I am determined to resist after reading Team Human.

My freedom aside, what if there was some kind of program logging all of my keystrokes, saving my passwords and recording my every digital movement? I don’t really know what is possible – I just write HTML and CSS, after all.

“Lock your computer”

What does that even mean? Obviously, I’d tried to obey its command by logging in and out again, but the voice wouldn’t stop. How else would I “lock my computer”? Buy a USB combination lock or whatever those things are?

I couldn’t listen to music, and I couldn’t have calls because it would interrupt them, causing a wave of panic and paranoia that rendered me unable to work. I tried updating the operating system to Mojave which broke my local development environment, so I had to lose almost an entire day of work struggling to get that running again.

All the while, even after the update…

“Lock your computer”
“Lock you computer”

I even did a malware scan, thinking a Mac computer could get a virus, but no malicious files were found.

“Lock your computer”

Note: the rest of this post is not true! It was intended as an April Fools’ joke to make my friend/co-worker – who pulled a prank on me – feel extremely guilty and potentially reimburse me for money I did not spend. Here is what really happened.

Over the weekend, when I really needed to be writing blog posts, the voice was making me so paranoid I couldn’t take it anymore. Enough was enough.

I decided to just buy a new laptop. I will have to spend less at the bars this month to make up for it, but I decided it’s worth a mere $2,000 to stick to my resolution: technology will not control me.

Luckily, my new laptop has been fine so far even though I had to get one with a touch bar. At least we know this virus, or whatever it was, is not able to hop between hard-drives.

In closing, I just wanted to share this story so that everyone is aware that Macs are vulnerable, too, and that you should, indeed, lock your computer, especially in New York.