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Point Magu

May 5th, 2000

It Was Sunny At That
I have another site called that I put together some years ago when I had a Novell reseller business in Napa and I've never bothered to shut it down. Which, after shedding tears over the cost of owning a Jeep, is pretty stupid, come to think of it. Not shutting it down. Northland Baptist Bible College in Dunbar Wisconsin has the same domain name, except (of course) it ends with an .edu.

I get email sent to students and faculty at Northland Baptist Bible when it's mis-mailed to and I've gotten into the habit of logging into my old email account using IE Outlook Express every now and then to download and delete the email before it builds up. There's usually a fair amount. A bunch of stuff, not just the bible college mis-mails (Yes, I get the occasional email too: people negotiating big bucks television deals mostly.), but nothing personal or particularly interesting.

I'm not sure it's because it's a bible college, but there's a lot of email going back and forth with subjects like: "Sally loves you" and "Jesus loves you" and "Bubba loves you" and I've gotten pretty blasé about ripping through the list deleting them as they pop up on the screen and last Wednesday night was no exception, deleting some two hundred emails, a couple of which (I recalled later) were titled "ILOVEYOU" or "I-LOVE-YOU" or something very similar. There's a lot of love bouncing around the state of Wisconsin evidently so I didn't think about them one way or another as I was hitting the delete key.

At the office yesterday morning, going through the ILOVEYOU virus itself, line by line with our virus team (we had plenty of ILOVEYOUs to choose from quarantined in our mail servers), I remembered: Had I deleted those nbbc messages without setting any of them off? Were there still jpegs on this machine I'm writing on here at the moment? There were lots of pictures in my machine, dear mama, and they were not all backed up to disk. Tsk, tsk.

Self: Is there an, um, ethical question here, Prop? Deleting emails without letting the senders know about their addressing mistake?

Nah. Except maybe for the one that read "Momma and the kids are dead and I'm dying here alone in this foul Wisconsin hospital. Why won't you respond?" A put on, no doubt. Probably had a virus attached. The "PLEASE COME I'M DYING AND I LOVE YOU" virus. I dumped it in the trash.

This is the first virus, worm really, that I've ever examined line by line. We've been testing the Building at 333 Market Street, San Francisco Office 2000 software for the company which, when we roll it out, will put Outlook on our desktops for the first time. Outlook functions as an email client as well as giving you an address book and a calendar and some other stuff. (Some other stuff is a long story that we'll just skip, if you don't mind.) Outlook is a problem because a properly written virus can use it to access the email directory on your computer and send copies of itself attached to emails it generates to the entire list. That's what the ILOVEYOU virus did. It also writes itself over all the jpeg files on a machine, picture.jpg becoming picture.jpg.vbs, for example, and now all your photographs of the children are strings of Visual Basic virus code instead of cute little pixels. It does the same thing to music mpegs and other files. A slight change would have caused it to write itself over all of the word and spreadsheet files on your computer too and that, my friend, particularly to those of us who have not done our backups as often as we should at the office, would have been a pain in the ass.

The interesting aspect is how closely it paralleled the check list of problems we'd been predicting from our roll out analysis. It did all of them: Changing the computer registry and opening a hole to an outside web site (where it downloaded a program that stole passwords cached in memory), disabling security, sending out copies of itself attached to emails, pissing on the new carpets. None of what I'm saying here needs to make sense, it's just that everything it did we'd pretty well predicted and documented and then here it was on everybody's desktop. Well, on everybody's desktop if we'd already switched over to the Microsoft email system. We don't use Outlook yet. Our current email program is old and funky enough that it couldn't figure out how to run LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs, because the name was too long, so it opened it as a text file. Text files don't damage your system. So we ducked the LOVE bullet.

I just checked the weather for Sunday: rain. Rain, rain, rain. Well, they make mistakes. The Cinco de Mayo parade is Sunday, of course, when else? I'll go unless it really is coming down hard and then, I don't know, I'll do some homework or something. Sunny California and it rains on my first parade of the year, if you don't count the Chinese New Year parade when it almost always rains and it's dark because they have it in the early evening (bitch, bitch, bitch). My foray into the heart of the great Southern California state for the Point Magu shootout doesn't count, although you could think of an air show as a parade without any streets. A crowd watching the exhibits fly by at 400 miles an hour would qualify, I guess. And it was sunny at that.

The banner photograph was taken at the Point Magu air show. I'm out of photographs. Let it not rain on Sunday and the Cinco de Mayo parade. Please. The photograph of the building at 333 Market Street was taken one weekend not long ago when I was attending the Illustrator class across the street. I think I got the balance and contrast a little better than the one I sent to Rien for his collection, so Rien, if you're reading this and you like it better, you might just grab it.