Issue 14.06 - June 2006
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18 Days of Reckless Computing 

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What kind of idiot buys a computer and willingly – even eagerly – exposes it to all the malware and viruses he can? Me. I bought a Dell Dimension B110 ($468! Cheap!) and tried to kill it for more than two weeks. I clicked on every pop-up and downloaded the gnarliest porn, gambling, and hacker files I could find. It seems our Internet overlords are sterilizing spam. If I were to treat my body the way I treated this computer, I’d have yellow fever, bird flu, and Alzheimer’s. But the Dell? Eh. Somewhat the worse for wear.

Steve Knopper

Diary of Destruction

Prelaunch: I ask friends and relatives to forward me their nastiest-looking spam. In response, I start getting emails from my mom with discomforting subject lines like “Dating for kinky people!” I disable all my firewalls and virus-protection software.

Day 1: I click on Viagra come-ons, Chinese-language ads, and anything else I can point my cursor at. “Gain” spyware, “MORE SIZE!” enticements, and Free Smut Club offers pop up every few minutes – a decent start. But I crave viruses. Frustratingly, Yahoo Mail refuses to open the dozens of dubious -attachments I’ve forwarded to myself.

Day 2: Craving a less discerning email service, I open, which features the cartoon Dragonball Z.

Day 4: I receive an email in Portuguese from the Brazilian government announcing that it has rejected an email from me because it contained W32.Netsky.Q@mm. Score! No perceptible impact on my system, but apparently networks in São Paulo have been brought to a standstill.

Day 10: I download Kazaa, search for .xxx, .gif, .rar, .pif, and .exe files, and open everything. My desktop is soon stuffed with pornography, MP3s in Arabic, and pirated copies of Tomb Raider. Within minutes, Explorer has a grand mal seizure – 95 pop-ups and innumerable error messages. Hah!

Day 11: Incredibly, the Dell boots up. I’ve gotten some strange attachments that Yahoo, Outlook, and Eudora won’t let me open. I try copying some from my regular computer to the Dell using an external drive. Nothing.

Day 12: Upon firing up the computer, I get six Internet Explorer pop-ups, one WhenUWin Sweepstakes, and one “The Best Offers.” McAfee VirusScan says I have 25 potentially unwanted files, including W32/Netsky.q@MM!zip and two other viruses. SaferScan finds 1,002 porn files on my hard drive, and my Yahoo Mail inbox has 200 brand-new messages with subject lines like “Tired of dating games?”

Day 18: I take the Dell to Best Buy’s Geek Squad and tell a technician that I’m having a bit of trouble with it. Less than four hours later I get a call back from Carla. She declares it a total loss and advises wiping the hard drive and restoring it with system disks. “The tech ran a couple of virus scans,” she says. “One kept beeping so much that he had to just turn it off.” Ah, that’s the stuff.

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