I've been a content producer on YouTube for a long time now. (Seven years, come March of 2016.) I could tell you stories about my experiences, whether they be of long-lasting friendships or, most importantly, how YouTube had helped me to conquer a crippling social phobia and anxiety. One could easily say that my internet experiences were one of the best things to happen to me, right?
Well, there's one story I prefer not to talk about. It all started when I decided to browse the web for a good audio editing program. This was back when I used to make Let's Plays, and my new microphone had a lot of noise, a term which refers to that loud hissing in the background that comes from a sensitive microphone. If I were smart enough to just go out and buy myself a nicer microphone, none of this would have happened.
But my younger self decided it would be cheaper to go on the shadiest end of the web and download some random program. I downloaded Audacity, since it's well known, although the site I got it from was... off. The webpage was poorly made, just "Master Downloads" in a red comic sans, like some kind of Microsoft Word default a grade school would use for announcements, on a solid black background. White text in bold said "AUDACITY DOWNLOAD," a download link beneath it.
I thought nothing of it. I was still very uneducated about where to go and where not to go on the internet. I clicked download, and the program was soon installed to my computer, no doubt bundled with a virus.
Sure enough, while playing around with my new program, a small, badly animated blue bear climbed up over my taskbar and stood up. He looked like something straight out of Windows XP. Since I'd started watching Vinesauce, I came to the conclusion that he was very similar to Bonzi Buddy. A small desktop companion who would attempt to converse with me, likely for my credit card information.
I froze upon seeing this new, malicious fellow. I knew exactly what was going on. I knew exactly how to deal with a virus like this. Don't touch it, don't get involved, just open up your virus software, and scan away. I did just that thing, scanning my entire PC as the bear tried to get my attention through automated responses. A small text bubble appeared over his head and was quickly read by the Microsoft Sam voice.
"Hey! I have something really cool to show you!"
Probably more viruses. The grammar was surprisingly good. Most of the time, viruses like these are made in other countries where things like this are legal, so the sentences are often broken and, contrary to their purpose, kinda funny. I looked at my virus scanning software: "2 COOKIES FOUND." I declined deleting those, that would only waste time. Another message popped up.
"Oh! Won't you join us?"
No thank you, I thought. I'm not in the mood to get involved in something I'd regret. I clicked the "update malware definitions" button on my software.
"CANNOT CONNECT TO INTERNET: ACCESS DENIED."
Shit. I tried to go on Chrome; the same problem occurred. Another one of those damn responses came up.
"Having trouble getting online?"
I had no hope. My PC was screwed. I decided that since it was already too far infected, I'd just humor the virus a bit. If things got to the point where I could get in trouble, I'd unplug the PC. I clicked the bubble over his head.
"We can fix your internet! Just look at our page!"
I knew what this virus was trying to do. It was trying to create a theoretical tunnel, one that would force me into going on one site where I'd download 30 more viruses. Like I already said, this PC was already trashed. I just kept going. (In fact, I almost considered recording the experience, but I decided nobody would want to watch somebody destroying a PC with viruses. Pretty ironic, considering one of the most popular things right now is Vinesauce doing just that.)
"Oh! You don't have TOR yet! I'll get that for you!"
It took me a second to realize what TOR was, but before I could decline, he was already downloading it. There was no way to decline, ever. I had gotten myself into a point of no control. Whatever comes up, I'd be forced to look at. If my time on the internet researching things like conspiracies was correct, TOR was a program known as "Onion." It allows people to access a part of the internet known as the Deep Web, where the government had not yet checked the sites for illegal activity.
I was scared. God knew what this thing could take me to. Drugs, weapons, hitmen, or worse. Whatever it would attempt to take me to, I wanted nothing of it. I decided I'd just see what it takes me to, just one quick look wouldn't hurt. Everybody who knew me knew that whatever it would attempt to sell me wouldn't interest me. Drugs had always seemed like a waste of time and resources to me, I've always been a strong advocate for gun control, and anything beyond that went way against my moral and, at the time, religious beliefs. (I had become an Atheist since this event, from choices that have nothing to do with this day.)
This was my first time ever looking at this part of the internet, and hopefully my last. As soon as the program was installed, I was taken right to their site. What I got was not what I expected. The site was titled "Dancing with the Devil," and all of the videos were titled things like "stabbed in the chest, cleansing." I realized they were all of people being murdered.
At first I thought this was somebody's fucked up snuff films, but then I saw a button. "About us." I hesitantly clicked it. There were no images, just a block of text in courier new, no html to accompany it.
"We are a cult who stream videos of us ridding souls of their inner demons. Want to join us? Sign up here!"
I didn't want to click the link. I looked at the top of my screen. The X was transparent, as if I wasn't allowed to click it. I tried shutting down my PC. "ACCESS DENIED." I had begun to feel sick to my stomach. I unplugged the PC immediately. It never turned on for me again.