Barbara Lowes is a mom of four. She often loves to surprise her children with treats outside of their comfort zone. She gave them out because she knows that she often buys things from the net. She was giving away swag because she felt it was important to multiply her income. She believed that if she gave enough stuff away, she’d eventually earn enough to pay for everything. That’s when she closed her eyes to the trap and steeled herself for the impact of Cyber terrorism.
Barb’s trap was Spam — unsolicited junk mail that doubled as dangerous solicitation. It bulged with ads that would scare a bear into ausinessman. Friends and enemies would email her together, panic-stricken that she was connected to a deadly virus. She recalled a ultraviolet light cone that she had once seen in a department store that prompted a horrified reaction from one of her cousins who had been born with birth defects.
Barb’s warnings led her to resolve to shred that globe every time she got rid of one of the hundreds of lists she got for Believe Care. The list had reached generations of computers since her last spanking, and she was astounded to learn that the lists still producing the same lurid messages were still doing so hours after she deleted them. Aunt Miria’s black mark was not yet expunged, and she knew it was only a matter of time before one of her relatives was killed by one of those astonishing viruses.
At four in the afternoon on Thursday, Barbara Lowes got a call from her computer. It was her computer, incessant pop-ups were warning her that someone was ” stalking” her, she had seen a “ghost” at her computer — a graphic image of a skull and some cryptic messages — and she was freaked out.
She told me that she had found an article she had written for the Times on the Internet that day. I listened to her description of the article, and I could tell she was freaked out, that she was ” crying out loud” about something or other. I assured her that she was not, that she was perfectly safe and that she could put the article down.
I asked her if she had a name for the article, and she named the writer — a friend of hers who knew she was struggling with an addiction to anorexia and had offered to help her with self-injection.
Next, I led her to the section of the writer’s web site where she could look up the writer’s pictures and write a few comments about each picture. She wrote down, “Here’s the picture I took.” Then, she added, “And here’s the name of the guy who’s picture is on the right.”
She was recognizing names, she was writing down what she knew about this person — and, because she had brought a friend to meet her at the site, she was able to take a few pictures of the guy herself.
By Thursday, Shannon had written down everything she knew about the guy named Richard, except for his name. He had given her permission to use his picture. He had lived in Michigan for a while. She had family in Michigan. He had an approaching death in Michigan. She decided to take him out for lunch, to give him a last goodbye.
By Thursday, I had become involved in this developing story, along with the owner of the site she was visiting. She was very forthcoming and filled me in on a few things that she had to do to protect herself. She wanted me to know that the site was safe for work — as well as fun.
Not too long ago, I had an entire discussion with the owner of a major retailer of computer equipment. This person is a smart, witty, well-adjusted individual. She was well-connected — and very much aware of the threats to her business and to the safety of her customers.
But she made it clear that she felt comfortable with me, as long as I made sure her system was locked down tight. As she saw it, her security concerns were solely about the potential criminal element.
As this is generally the case, unfortunately — when you have the whole world at your fingertips via the Internet — you very quickly discover that whatever positive potential the Internet may offer quickly becomes negative for us criminal element.