Back Up Your Shakespeare

worm-main_full2By Savannah Thorne

When I studied for my MSIA (Master of Science, Information Assurance) degree, we were taught all aspects of information security, particularly vigilant preparedness. But after receiving my degree, I had my second child, and chose to stay home with her. When you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you don’t expect much more than a random virus to hit your computer. Any of the standard antivirus products are acceptable for your average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill home computer that doesn’t do a heck of a lot more than check e-mail a couple of times a day. I also run a small discussion board, and, for a while, I kept a blog. Not the world’s biggest target. In fact, pretty puny.

When I go onto the Internet, I like to be an open, friendly person. I like to help people. I talk about my life, and encourage others to do the same. I particularly enjoy the aspect of being an aspiring writer who writes about aspects of the business as they happen. Sharing my experience, I hope, will help and inspire other writers as they walk along their long and lonely path.

But any celebrity will tell you the dark side of being exposed as an approachable person is the fan with an irrational obsession.

That’s what happened to me.

I had known—and blocked, ignored, deleted and reported—an irrationally obsessed person for a full ten years. Over a decade, he would change e-mail addresses periodically and flood me with infatuated e-mails again. I blocked, ignored, deleted and reported at least three e-mail addresses to law enforcement as well as an IP address, all to no effect.

Abruptly, he gained entrance both to my blog and my password-protected discussion board. Utterly fed up now, and feeling violated, I finally told him off in no uncertain terms. Because he had ignored both years of cold silence and occasional polite e-mails letting him know to leave me alone, at last I told him off publicly on my blog. I felt it was the last straw, to make sure he took notice. He did.

The next day, I barely had a computer left.

This virus, based on “Love Letter” (and which my “fan” renamed “Savvy” after my nickname), gets into your computer and hits all JPGs, Excel documents, and Word documents. It overwrites data with unusable, unreadable characters and then saves the garbage over your file so that the original is impossible to retrieve. Impossible. The virus is designed to completely, irretrievably, wipe out everything—in short, to destroy one’s computer irrevocably.

According to the “experts,” no one in the private sector has yet been hit with this. In taking my computer around for repairs, I was told that only the Pentagon and abortion clinics ever see a virus remotely like this—a point-blank, malicious, full-on, black-hat attack. The theory advanced by those who attempted file recovery was that this virus was probably designed for military application. Even forensics experts who can pull the files off burnt computers cannot fix this. It is, they claimed, like an alien species. According to research, IBM is the only company who had ever reported seeing this virus before, and despite their best efforts they could not find a way to fix it.

Funny….guess where my biggest fan works?

The lesson: back up, back up, back up. I had most of my files backed up, but my most recent one, a novella on which I was working, was not backed up yet because it was new and unfinished. It was also, in my estimation, one of my most valuable files. It would have been easy to e-mail it to myself. It would have been easy to copy it onto a flash drive. It would even have been easy to print it out. But I did none of these. I was complacent.

This taught me a valuable lesson, beyond be careful whom you know on the Internet. It’s that there are indeed evil, crazy, malicious people out there, and they can attack even the smallest of us.

Back up your work. Even if you are not finished with a file, back it up. Even if there’s time to do it tomorrow, back it up. Even if there’s other, seemingly more important, work to be done, back it up.

The stalker aimed the virus like a gun and shot out of helpless, jealous rage. And therein lies the final lesson: people are the real virus. Still, this stalker did not steal, mar, or destroy what he really wanted to: my heart.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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2 Comments on “Back Up Your Shakespeare”

  1. Putting the stalking issue aside for the moment, data backups should be done all the time. If you think about it, most of your data is floating on a magnetic plate just microns thick at an insane speed. When the actuator arm finally malfunctions, the data loss is usually irreversible. Always back your junk up.

    As far as computer hacking, hackers rely on end users helping the hacker out to exploit your system. Love letter is written in visual basic scripting – and relies on tricking end users into execution. So not only are you exploited technologically, you are also exploited socially as this is a form of social engineering. The danger of VB scripting is the ease in which any half wit can modify it to do specific damage, the hacker community refers to them as “script kiddies”.

    One thing I highly recommend: Use online email. Many of the modern email hosting companies have built in virus scanners. They also don’t use client side code. Outlook was targeted all those years for a reason: its easy to hack and its easy for a person who receives and email from you to tell that you are using outlook.

  2. Aside from all the technical lingo used in the comment above. I used to use Outlook. It is very convenient for those that find logging into the their browser email accounts a hassle. But I stopped using Outlook as well.

    The internet can be a very dangerous place. I read an article stating that hackers can even hack into webcams. Yikes, could you imagine all the times I left my computer on amidst making love. I sometimes find that I haven’t logged out of sites as well as messenger. Messenger automatically signs on everytime I turn the computer on. I keep forgetting to fix that.

    I have seen some freaky shit happen on my computers, we just don’t think things like stalkers and hackers will happen to us. They can happen to anyone.

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