I’ve been infected and I am not happy about it. My first-ever computer virus hit me unawares, and I have unwittingly contaminated everyone I know and love. This thing—with an incubation period of about a nanosecond—took the form of an email that promised great pictures from a good friend of mine. A woman I know well and trust implicitly. A woman who would never lead you astray, drive with one hand on the wheel, or cheat on her taxes. A woman who would never, ever send you tainted email—knowingly.
Because I exceed the tech-savvy cut-off age of 30 (designated by my own traitorous children as the dividing point between those who “get” technology and those who fully believe there are tiny gnomes carrying out the functions in everyone’s computer), I opened this email.
To my shock and horror, the thing immediately sucked up my entire list of contacts and spontaneously reached out to every one of my friends on my behalf. Promising pictures for them. “Something I wanted to show them.” With the lurid undertone that only well-placed italics can properly convey. I should have known better. Most of my friends are over thirty too—poor things didn’t have a fighting chance. And they trusted me as I had trusted my friend. My name was in the subject line of this thing, and until this point, my name had elicited only happy thoughts—I mean, not rainbows and unicorns or anything, but on the whole, pleasant associations, rather than those imbued with mistrust or suspicion. Crazy how fast that can change. My reputation has been sullied.
Despite my frantic efforts to send everyone a cautionary note with a rather hysterical subject line (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T OPEN THAT OTHER EMAIL FROM ME!!!!!), several people did get taken in. I have since received notes from friends and family I hadn’t heard from in a long time, letting me know they were frustrated at missing whatever great thing I had purportedly sent them.
“Email viruses: bringing people together.”
I should send this tag line to Microsoft—they could use it to anchor an upbeat marketing campaign when one of their innumerable security flaws leads to a virus like this one.
Happily, there seems to have been no lasting effect from the virus I have had, although with Boy #1 (our resident programmer) working out of town at the moment, I can’t effect a thorough inspection of the gnomes innards of this machine until sometime near Christmas.
I shouldn’t really say there has been NO lasting effect; in all honesty, I have been scarred. Left with uncharacteristic wariness and a rather unhealthy measure of indignation as a result of this scam. Depressed by the thought that there is likely a significant number of intelligent, but highly antisocial twenty-year-old guys living in their mothers’ basements coming up with bugs like this, just for their own amusement. (Note: If you are the mother of a twenty-year-old son who lives in your basement, do us all a favour, please—go down there and see what he’s up to.)
Several months ago, I asked my programmer son (who—just to clarify— does not live in my basement) if he could tell me how to recognize such email trickery. He was very helpful. He showed me a simple process—I think it was only fourteen or so short steps—by which you could check whether an email was legit or not. It involved cutting and pasting, using Notepad (which I never knew I had), inserting the filename into some diagnostic website’s special search box, and then I think there might have been some magic words you had to chant. Sadly, I neglected to write down this quick and easy procedure, so I will ask him for a review at Christmas time; it can be his gift to me.
Meanwhile, I shall be especially vigilant. I will not open any emails promising a million dollars, a cure for male-pattern baldness, or the enlargement of any particular body part—not even the good ones. And maybe, just to be on the safe side, I’ll bake some cookies for the gnomes.
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