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PSA: be your own human virus-scan

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For the first time, I received one of those nasty new viruses, the Palyh or Mankx virus. I’ve never gotten one of these right when it was hitting its peak. I deleted it immediately without opening the attachment.

Here’s an idea: when you receive an email from anyone, if it contains an attachment, ask yourself, “Would this person normally send me an attachment?” In this case, it supposedly comes from Microsoft. “Would Microsoft really choose to send me Windows stuff through email?” No, of course not. And let’s say you’ve got a friend or relative who regularly sends you those stupid forwarded-a-million-times files. First, do you really need to see this? And second, if you don’t recognize the file extension, DON’T OPEN IT. I saw that the extension in this email was a “.pif” – which I happen to know is an alternate extension for an executable file (not everyone knows this, is what I’m saying). If I didn’t know anything about it, why would I open it? This is how viruses spread, by people mindlessly opening extensions.

You should have to get a license to operate a computer. You should have to have a general knowledge of file types that run on computers, how to avoid destroying them, and how to avoid falling for them as malicious virii. It should have to be common sense to not open “.pif” files, or “.dat,” or even something as obvious as “.exe” files. You should have to know, do not ever, ever, EVER just open these files. These damn things prey on people who don’t know all that, prey on those who open everything they’re sent. The internet is like the back-alley you don’t want your kids to play in – you can find an untold amount of disturbing stuff that could hurt you out there. I hate to say it, but you should just assume that you’re going to be bombarded with spam, viruses, porn, or any other lascivious subject matter, if you hang out on the internet for any significant amount of time. It’s out there, but unlike the back-alley, it doesn’t just wait for you to come find it. It finds you on its own.

I’d just like to give a shout-out to the little snots who create these viruses. Without you, where would we be? Oh, yeah, right – we’d be able to trust that email we receive is okay to open, and we would never have to worry about opening a file from email. Maybe you could argue that these viruses teach us, especially us Americans, that not everyone should be trusted, that there are people out there who don’t even have a particular problem with you, or anyone – they just enjoy being the creator of something destructive.

When I see stuff like this, I hear the rhetoric that’s been bounced around since September 11 – that they don’t like our freedom of speech, that they don’t like how we live. That’s crap. They don’t care. They just know we’re an easy target. Like in nature, what is perceived as weak in some way will be the first victim to the hungry predator. Terrorists and these virus-makers thrive on finding the weak spots in the herd, and they target them viciously. Terrorists didn’t see America as the military giant we are, they saw us as the soft, meaty innards covered by a shell that can’t do a damn thing against a well-aimed dart – or airplane. They did it to say they could. They did it to show how easy it is to take down the giant when the giant only expects military attacks. Viruses work the same way – they take down victims not because they’ve done anything wrong or because anyone dislikes you but because the can. That’s the lesson I think we’re failing to learn – we’re a target precisely because we live in a society where we’ve grown accustomed to not thinking about watching our backs at all times. The rhetoric continues, attempting to empower citizens, to convince them that we’re safe. We never will be. Terrorists – and viruses – are waiting out there to pounce on the assuming. You’re not safe, no one is safe anymore.

That’s a damn sad lesson to have to learn.

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About Tom Johnson

  • How about a shout-out to the geniuses at Microshaft who leave the gaping holes in the OS and applications in the first place? Hey, let’s make “automatically open attachments” a default setting to make life easier for the clueless! And why not hide the extensions so people don’t need to worry their little heads about trivial distinctions…

  • You’re absolutey right, Hazy Dave. “Don’t trust Microsoft” has become such a mantra that I don’t even think of it anymore. Suffice it to say, if you own a Windows-run computer, you need to be knowledgable not only of what is out there that could hurt you but how your own OS is at fault for a lot of it.

  • Where can I find out when this was posted?

  • The date is listed in the byline at the top of the page, Tracey – this happens to have been posted May 20, 2003.