now almost all of us have felt the effect of the now
famous Blaster worm. This latest insect has affected
hundreds of thousands of PC's (Us Mac users have not
been affected. Thanks Steve!) around the world causing
them to suddenly shut down, or worse, lose their internet
connection! The cost is not a mere annoyance. Thousands
of corporate servers running systems as old as NT, 2000,
as well as the highly touted secure XP have been infected.
Causing entire offices to shut down early giving expensive-to-keep
employees a half day off here, a half day off there as
IT armies hunt down and attempt to eradicate the offending
scripts like Special Forces after Al Qaeda.
A particularly cunning virus, that I will for now
term the "I Love You" type, sits on a PC
(Again, Mac users are unaffected) and looks for your
email tool (Outlook etc.) and when you have an internet
connection, uses one of your friends' email addresses
in your addressbook, pretending to be them, sends itself
as an attachment to everyone in your addressbook. This
makes it look as if a friend of yours has used your
PC and sent out email to everyone in your addressbook.
With the virus attached. When it arrives, all of your
PC using friends are potentially infected, and the
virus now uses their computers to do the same and so
on and so on. Very Nasty Indeed!
That is why you will no doubt have gotten an email
from someone you don't know, asking you why you sent
them an email. Don't worry, you didn't. It was probably
someone who has you in their addressbook, and with
the luck of the draw, their computer sent out the virus
pretending to be you. Very Sneaky Indeed!
you are like me, you would like to know what to do
to stop getting these viruses or better, how to stop
getting the Viagra ads! It seems that what was once
a cool communications medium has turned into a huge
pain in the....neck.
It is estimated that the average email user now receives
over 70 unsolicited emails every day! And that is going
to go up as it is expected that within one year we
will all likely receive 120 or more unwanted emails.
And that's just based on SPAM! This does not count
in the blaster type worms and viruses which send out
email or rather, "blast" email to everyone
To get a handle on this issue of incerasing concern
I did a bit of research on how these things work, why
SPAM seems to continue to be popular and what our options
are for the near future. I must warn you now that this
will be boring and techno-talkish, but I will do my
best to keep it simple and hopefully add in some color
to make it more digestible. If not you can read this
at nighttime when you need something really boring
to read and ... aah...sleep well my prince or princess.
Still awake? Wow! You are worried aren't you! OK here's
what we know;
worms, I Love You Viruses, and Macros;
As the PC world realigns itself to it's latest trend,
or the UNIX-style environment it has now decided to
adopt, shortcuts in the development of your computer's
basic operating system are standard. Basically, for
those of you on PC's it's Microsoft's fault. In the
mad rush to release their next generation operating
system, they have unwittingly (or wittingly) left open
many back doors, unattended gateways, and well, basically
produced a mostly OK, but ultimately shoddy product.
This is proven by how fast the patches are made available.
One would think that if Microsoft would spend the time
looking for the kind of open holes in their code, those
same ones that overweight and lonely teenagers with
bad haircuts can find, they would be able to avoid
the problem altogether. Why they don't do this is beyond
It's kind of like finding out that the trunk lock
of your new car is glued on instead of welded. It may
work for you fine, but thieves can get in really easily.
And that is exactly what is happening.
do you know if you have an open back door? Well, it's
not easy unless you are a programmer with several degrees
(which I know many of you have!). And it's not like
there is a n obvious draft you can follow. You must
check the Microsoft website, literally every day to
see what patches have been released for you to install
to plug the dike. Yes, you've just been turned into
the little Dutch boy. Nice hat!
So, why doesn't Microsoft plug the holes before releasing
their products to the consumer? Who knows. In the meantime,
if you use a PC and you are running any of Microsoft
software on it, you need to keep checking their website
for patches. Beware that some viruses or worms prevent
you from installing these patches!
The Mac, Linux or Unix computers don't have these
Of these 3 the Mac is the best alternative, as it
runs almost all the productivity software that PC's
use (Excel, PowerPoint, Oh yeah and Word), and in some
cases these products are even superior to their PC
counterparts and are completely cross platform safe.
Meaning, if you create a Word document on a Mac and
email it to a PC, it will open up. Trust me, I do it
all the time.
However nothing, but nothing can seem to stop SPAM.
is that unwanted email that doesn't have a virus or
worm attached to it, and is typically selling something
useless like weight-loss products or pills for every
vanity. It's basically email telemarketing without
a do-not-call option, and there is no Tele-Zapper.
SPAM works like this, there are companies that scour
the internet looking for email addresses. They then
sell these addresses by the millions to people who
sell things. In many cases these companies who offer
the addresses for sale, often have the products to
go with them. They charge naive and unknowing investors
relatively small fees ($300-$400) per blast. It's basically
a gamble. The bet is that if enough people get the
offer, even if a small percentage buy, you will make
money. They promise that the more you send the more
you will make. So unwise investors seeking that once
in a lifetime payday keep on doing it.
Noone's telling if it works or not. The Spammer companies
claim it does but don't show data, The people who pay
the Spammers don't divulge heir success (or lack thereof).
But I doubt it. I have never bought anything from SPAM.
I know what I need and when I need it, I go out and
buy it. I am not fooled by impulse to buy anything
sent via email. It am puzzled by how pervasive the
sale of Viagra or it's generic alternative seems to
be. I won't get into whether I personally have any
interest in buying Viagra online or not, all I can
say is that I think if you do, you would at least get
a prescription from you Doctor just so you don't die
But apparently there is huge demand for this stuff,
because I and every other person I know keeps getting
the emails. And there are millions of them being sent
each and every day, clogging an already bursting internet
with useless and often undeliverable trash.
can block some of them with filters and Anti SPAM software,
but it often removes real email too. Also you can create
rules in your email tool looking for keywords such
as "Viagra" but the senders bypass that with
clever tricks like spelling Viagra as V i a g r a.
It seems ingenuity is always one step ahead of the
Legislation that outlaws SPAM seems to be the only
way, but the bills that sponsor this have been stuck
in congress for 5 years. Making it illegal is one thing
but enforcing the law is another. And no one in Washington
these days wants to fund another agency devoted to
hunting down Chinese or East European spammers.
A relatively new idea to stop SPAM has recently been
floated whereby you subscribe to a service whose job
it is to verify that an email sent to you is in fact
sent by a real person or not. You add your friends
to a friends list, which automatically allows the email
through. If someone not on your list sends you an email,
the service will send them an email asking them to
confirm they are a human (and not an automated message)
by entering in the secret coded password that is a
graphic (and therefore not able to be read by a machine,
Yet!) and resending the message.
To me what is dubious about services like this is
a couple of things, first, it takes a long time for
an email to get to you, usually 2-3 days. Second it
is only a matter of time before the machines recognize
images. Third, every email sent requires 2 more to
get to it's destination and thereby cloggin the internet
even more. And finally, there is nothing to stop the
viruses pretending to be someone on your Friends List
from getting through! That plus $9.95 per month makes
it not an option, at least for me.
So there isn't a lot of good news on the horizon.
Some are talking about entirely re-engineering the
way email works on the internet. That may be the best
solution, but controlling something as free as email
is always a moral problem.
For now, I'm on a Mac. I use a free Yahoo email account
for my general stuff. A MyWay.com account (Awesome!)
for my personal stuff. And on my website? Why my phone
number of course!