Dear bozos (you know who you are): Put your dunce caps on and repeat after me about a hundred times — I will not open the attachment of an e-mail that promises a picture of a naked celebrity.
Take this advice so that I wont have to read the insipid "news" reports that will inevitably follow. The latest development in this moronic saga: Last month, a virus designed to wipe out a PCs hard disk made the rounds, masquerading as a nudie pic of Jennifer Lopez. My irritation obviously extends to the unemployed, antisocial flakes who waste time creating these viruses in the first place.
But its not just an annoyance. Financial losses from viruses appear to have jumped significantly in the past year. From viruses alone, U.S. companies in 2001 reported an average annual monetary loss of $244,000, up from $61,700 in 2000, according to a survey of 538 computer security professionals conducted by the Computer Security Institute and the FBI.
Another problem is that incidents like the J.Lo virus erode our confidence in the Internet, if ever so slightly. We dont know what we can trust. Sometimes we cant even be sure whom to trust, since these fast-spreading viruses propagate themselves through address books — ensuring that you will receive something like "Check it out — Jennifer Lopez NAKED!!!" from a person you know.
Some thinkers, such as John L. Petersen, head of futurist think tank The Arlington Institute, have suggested that a sizable "trust industry" will develop to indicate what is a hoax or a scam and what is legitimate. But technology will not fully solve this problem. After all, security company VeriSign recently issued two Microsoft digital certificates to an unknown imposter — a human blunder that means someone could have faked you into installing malicious code in the belief that it was Microsoft-approved.
Well have to be Internet skeptics. I live in New York — where being mistrustful is a way of life — so perhaps Im preconditioned. Many of us already regard information on the Net suspiciously. A University of California at Los Angeles study last fall found that only 54.7 percent of Net users surveyed agreed that "most or all online information is reliable and accurate."
We can all do our part with this pledge: For the love of Hugh Hefner, I will not open an attachment that promises a naked celebrity.