Su Lum: Worms, snakes
September 9, 2003
I had just finished reading Sheldon Fingerman’s advice to immediately update our Windows program and virus protectors to avoid getting the worm virus that’s been going around, when I opened my computer to file my column and got the red flag that it was time to activate Norton, my virus protector.
As Sheldon often mentions, it is idiots (like me) who keep him in business. I noted the advice but I had a deadline and surely it wouldn’t hurt, surely it wouldn’t make a difference if I clicked on “Remind me in 1 day.”
When I went back to the computer that night, it took two? hours for my e-mail to come in and I knew I had been wormed.
Spam messages are bad enough. I get 40 or 50 a day, promising to enlarge my penis (I am curious about the ones advertising a penis PATCH), clear my debts, meet the love of my life and supply me with Viagra and tranquilizers without a prescription, but at least they come in quickly and are quickly deleted. Not so with the worms.
The worm messages come with long attachments and have repetitive subject lines such as: your details, mail undelivered, thanks!, that movie and wicked screensaver. Idiot that I am, I know not to open any of them and the worm is apparently at the mere “pain in the butt” level, rather than infecting my system, but it is a huge pain.
It takes so long for the messages to come in, I go back to work or putter around the house and forget about it and friends complain that they have been trying to call all day and keep getting busy signals.
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I used to have a spam screener which let obvious spam through (“Teen age girls!”) but censored my personal mail, so I didn’t want to go back to that, and I’ve read that the worm is programmed to end in a few days, so I’ve been waiting it out. Part of me thinks it is a just punishment for ignoring Sheldon’s advice and clicking on “Remind me in 1 day.”
Now we hear that an even worse virus awaits us on September 11.
All it took was one jerk, trying to pull off a perfect murder, to bring the Tylenol manufacturers to the brink of ruin and put those impenetrable tamper-proof seals on every ingestible product on the market. All it took was one deranged fanatic, dubbed the Unabomber, and another versed in anthrax, to make us afraid to open our mail. All it takes is one computer nerd to clog our systems with worms.
Worms and snakes writhe everywhere.
All it took was a few hijackers to put metal detectors in all of our airports, and all it took was 16 terrorists to make millions of airline passengers take off their shoes and relinquish their nail clippers. All it took was a few thieves to put scanning devices in our libraries, book stores and clothing shops.
What I hate most about the worm and its ilk is that the Internet is the last bastion of free enterprise, free speech and free access to international news, and, left to our own devices, look what we do with it. Between the kiddie porn, the net-telemarketers, the frauds, the hackers and the Homeland Security forces, we’re going to lose it as sure as sure can be.
Freedom. Abuse it and it will be taken away, you can count on that. And then there we’ll be, with all the data we’ve so willingly fed into the system ripe for the plucking, either by our own government or by the hackers.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we walked right into this with innocent eyes wide open. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]