David Madore's WebLog: Email viruses

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Email viruses

I guess there is no need for me to introduce the latest member of the (no longer very select) club of email viruses, since you probably received, like I did, a good dozen copies of it, in complete self-standing executable form, in your mailbox today. (Incidentally, I wonder how long it will take before someone writes a virus and starts suing everybody for illegally redistributing copyrighted material. Or maybe just attach a digital music file to the virus and let the Robbers' Ignoble Association of America take care of the second part.) Maybe I should send an email back for every copy of the virus I receive saying, thank you very much for your little program, but I have no machine on which I could run this Windows binary. The difficulty, though, would be to discover who the actual sender of the virus were, since sender addresses are forged. Meaning that after the pleasure of receiving N copies of the virus, I will get the delightful backslash effect of getting just about as many emails telling me they were sorry the virus I sent could not be delivered. Ha.

But the simply stupendous thing about email viruses is that the cure is so completely simple: just don't use an email reading program that allows execution of attachments without asking you half a dozen times for confirmation. Honestly, when did you ever receive a valid email, not a virus, with an executable attachment? I'm sure I never did (if someone wishes to send me a program, I will demand the source code anyway). Basically, it just amounts to: don't use any email program made by that company in Redmond; even if you need to run the Windows operating system (and I suppose there are valid reasons for that, even though I never discovered any myself), I'm sure there are dozens of very acceptable email reading programs in existence (Mozilla is one) which don't have the strange “feature” of enabling email viruses.

But no: not even are people so blatantly stupid that they refuse to change programs even when virus after virus proves that the one they use is fundamentally flawed, they actually seem to think that email viruses are something perfectly normal and understandable. I remember having a discussion with someone who was convinced that there was some sort of deep reason why they must exist, and the only way to fight them was to write “anti-virus” software; the idea that all it would take to eradicate them is to remove one simple and useless feature in his email reading program was astounding to him.

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