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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Today's Idiots

Friday, August 24, 2012

It is wrong to label people. I am going to do it anyway by writing about a rather recent batch of troublemakers I consider idiots. First let's consider those people who have the time to work out ways to invade the privacy of others by getting into a personal computer. Their motives may not be as simple as snooping into someone's life. They can get enough personal information to commit larceny without entering a home or a bank in person. No weapons are involved so even if they are caught, the penalties are not severe.

The idiots who anger me the most are the ones who figure out how to create a virus that will destroy computers. We may be able to understand, even if we did not approve, if their motivation was revenge because someone had wronged them. The question is, why would they do choose to cause harm and distress to millions of people they have never met and who have never done harmed anyone else with their computers. I would suggest to them that if they have such destructive tendencies they should create a worm that would attack only machines that have sent out original worms or bugs of their own. That would make a little bit of sense.

The internet began as early as 1969 or 1970 and in the years since then billions of computers have been destroyed by worms created for no other reason than to do just that. How do they get into a computer? Some do not need any action by the computer's user but others are sent as part of an e-mail. Who wouldn't open an e-mail with the words "I love you" in the subject line. That was sent out in the year 2000 and research shows that

ten days after it was first sent five million computers had been affected. Five and one-half billion computers had been damaged before it was stopped.

There are many reasons I love my computer, but there is a downside, too. Spam, unsolicited e-mail, is invasive, a time-waster and a thorn in the side. It occasionally alerts us to interesting facts we may otherwise never have known. I use the word facts very loosely. An article sent in an e-mail and forwarded to me by a friend claims that idiots in the workplace account for more heart attacks than any other factor. I was temporarily insulted that it was sent to me. I do not work with anyone else. The only person at my work station is me. Was there an unspoken message labeling me?

The article cites a study by Dr. Andresson of Sweden's Lindbergh University Medical Center. The article claims his study shows that people who have suffered heart attacks in spite of being very low-risk as far as physical factors are concerned, had one thing in common. They worked "with people so stupid they could barely find their way from the parking lot to the office". That is a quote from the article. Supposedly one lady collapsed at her desk after an assistant shredded important tax documents instead of copying them. Oops -- wrong machine. Another spent a week rebuilding client records because someone put them all in the recycle bin of their computer and then emptied it. The hapless someone thought recycle meant they would be kept for use later. For you non-computer users, a recycle bin is another name for a waste basket. It would have saved that idiot's job and her co-workers life if they had named it that in the first place. But not to worry -- I now know the whole article was so much hogwash.

The truth of the matter is that there is no such place as the Lindbergh Center in Sweden. You can rest assured that Dr. Andresson is simply a figment of someone's creative imagination as are the case histories related. There are almost as many false stories similar to these as there are computer viruses. People retell the false stories they read and if they say it happened to a friend of a friend, it gradually becomes considered a truth. The stories are eventually called urban legends. They can also be dangerous if the story involves some way to beat an illness or is in any way health related. Desperate people will accept and act on far-out ideas instead of seeking professional help.

We take precautions at our house. We pay extra for anti-virus software; we never open an e-mail from a name or address we don't recognize; we use common sense when reading stories being passed around.

By taking those precautions my personal computer has never been invaded--so far. Unfortunately, idiots surface daily so it may be only a matter of time before one of them finds my machine in our little corner of the world.

By Mary S. Roder
Musing With Mary