Monday, February 13, 2006

Feed my paranoia...

Today I got an email from one of my favorite people. She emails me from a popular email service (think gmail, yahoo, etc). She'd evidently hit "reply" to email me this time, or so I think because the subject header says "re: blah blah" and I'd sent her an email with just that subject some while back. She says she's worried about me because I haven't been responding to some emails she's been sending.

So, of course, I quickly responded, and said I'd try to figure out if something was getting dumped by the campus spam system or something.

Then I searched through the campus spam files I knew about, and didn't see anything new. And then, then I realized there's ANOTHER campus spam filter system, and opened that up, and voila! THOUSANDS of emails, including some from this friend. Now, many of the emails are indeed spam. You can guess about those.

But for a while, I've been wondering where the blogger emails for when someone's nice enough to post a response on this blog went. I've only ever seen ones from when I post myself, which seems the height of stupidity, because those are the ones I actually know about already. I'd be much happier knowing about others, right? Well, it looks like they're all in here, too! So that's exciting.

Now, all that doesn't make me paranoid in the least. However, amongst the spam were a couple of these:

Dear Sir/Madam,
we have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal
Please answer our questions!
The list of questions
are attached.

Yours faithfully,

*** Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3220
*** Washington, DC 20535
*** phone:
(202) 324-3000

Okay, my paranoid response is partly eased by the fact that I don't generally surf illegal websites so far as I know, and partly by the fact that my home computer has a different and ever changing ISP (which is common with ISP companies, as I understand it), and so, I think, does my work computer, since they get switched around as different computers on campus get turned on and off.

In addition, I have some hopes that the FBI wouldn't be so stupid as to expect people to email them about visiting illegal websites.

And is visiting illegal websites actually an illegal activity? I mean, I think I could visit, say, an off shore gambling site, and it would be perfectly legal. (It might not be legal to send them money, or gamble, I suppose, but merely visiting wouldn't be illegal.) And certainly just about anyone who's used any number of search engines or even the lovely blogspot random site visit button (upper right, hit it now for a random site visit) has ended up at a rather explicit pornographic site, maybe even one involving illegal activities (not that I have ever hit that button up on the right, so I wouldn't actually know...). But merely visiting on the web wouldn't be illegal, anymore than being present while a bank robbery was in progress would be illegal. Unsafe, sure, but not illegal. Or in the case of some websites, distasteful or horrifying, but not illegal.

Now, of course, the KEY here is that this email has an attachment which seems (only by the suffix, which is dot zip) to be a zip file. And I'm just just guessing that something in the zip file or hitting response will download something nasty onto one's computer, or at the very least give someone your email address to sell to people who would be interested that you'd maybe feel guilty about surfing illegal websites (gambling or pornography sites, perhaps? I just have little idea what other kinds of illegal sites there are out there. I'm not sure I'd want to know. I prefer my criminal activities enacted on the stage or in texts, thanks.)

Nonetheless I'm paranoid. I do have an FBI file. (So does everyone with my employment history. It's nothing special.) And I generally hold attitudes the FBI might find distasteful, especially in these times of paranoia. I may even have spoken with less than complete respect about some of our political leaders, in public and all.

So isn't there some kind of clearing site where you can send such nasty spam where the legal beagles try to track down and protect innocent (or even not so innocent) folks from the downright nasty tricks and scams in some emails?

If anyone knows about that, could you enlighten me, please?

Meanwhile, I have this really nice aluminum foils cap, which should impress the NSA when they come to visit. (Yeah, like I'd even realize they were tapping my phone or searching the BardiacShack!)

It doesn't help that my theory class today read "The Purloined Letter." Nope, that doesn't help my paranoia in the least. Do I now know I'm being watched? Dupin, you out there? Prefect G?

PS. No, I didn't click on the attachment, though I almost did for an instant. I bet someone with faster twitch reflexes might have, though. Or someone who wasn't quite so suspicious of government activities.


  1. What you have there is one of the gazillion variations of the W32.Sober.K@mm mass mailing worm. These things prey on people who don't think these things through logically (as you did) and freak themselves out into clicking the attachment.

    As far as a clearinghouse for these types of things, the major anti-virus companies jump on things right away, either at the direction of or in coordination with CERT. IOW, by the time you see something funny, everyone already knows.

  2. In addition to JM's advice to look at websites like Symantec or McAfee or FProt, you can also check out the Urban Legends Reference Pages at That page is good when you get stuff like "send this email to 2 gazillion people and a free coupon to the Gap will appear magically on your computer screen!" and you want to know if it's legit.

  3. (Just 'cuz i can't's the snopes page for your virus:

  4. Just an attempt to get you to open an attachment stuffed with a virus.

  5. Well, gosh you guys! I knew it was a scam, but of course I should have realized that the people who worry about such things have heard of it long before I woke up and shook off the dust.

    It's just as well you all gave me a good laugh at myself, because when I cleaned out that box a bit more, I found a similar one from the CIA! Because we all know the CIA is really worried about that Chaucer fellow I'm teaching! Or maybe they're worried that I might actually manage to run myself over with my own car next time?

  6. Ahhh..the purloined letter. I seem to remember a Lacan treatment of same.


  7. Remember, if you run yourself over with your own car, the terrorists win!