This guest article, which began as a comment from JR Bombadila, is a finely crafted satirical parody on the effects of the constant bombardment of bad news on Internet users, and was originally posted earlier this year.
It may well leave you questioning the “fear factor” as a motivating influence in securing Internet linked computers against the “bad guys”.
I must admit, I enjoyed reading this comment enormously, and I promise you, you are in for an unusual reading adventure in which the writer takes the “malware fear game”, to its logical conclusion.
Read on ……..
I must thank Bill Mullins for illuminating the dangers of the Internet. I only became meaningfully aware of them when I switched from dial-up to high-speed on my “new” computer.
Though I cannot brag I slew the Jabberwock, the Bandersnatch of Paranoia is dead, and the flaming eyes shall wiffle towards me no more, nor shall I heed its burble.
The first rays of light had cracked through my utter and blissful ignorance of the multitudinous dangers all about me only a few months ago when a real, living flesh and blood person told me that his identity had been stolen. A world shattering realization: the virtual world is real, it had struck my world.
The orcs have at last found the gateway into our world. They have arrived. Over the last seven months, I have gradually emerged from that dark cave into the light of full blown paranoia. Here follows the story of my enlightenment. May you be similarly blessed.
So there I was, the very brain child of Ignorance herself when I first entered the high speed world and deftly flew through the virtual ether world fleeter than feather-footed Hermes.
Ten years late arrived and freshly equipped with technology already outdated, I had finally pulled the trigger and entered the world of high-speed. But that is my modus operandi: wait until it’s cheap and outdated.
On that day and in my self-gratulatory mood for finally keeping up with the times, though still barely able to see the tail end of the pack, my mind was mostly at peace, somewhat confident that I had taken the sure steps to secure my identity, having paid homage to the credit gods, Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
I was lazily, blissfully surfing in ether-paradise but a few minutes when lightening struck: I felt the awakening that haunts me still. It was the Verizon god come to rescue me from my slumber. It spoke: “you are in great peril, soon to be hacked, an unmourned corpse for birds and dogs.”
With uncustomary, docile alacrity, I cried a quick thanks be to the Verizon god and immediately downloaded the savior, Verizon’s own virus-Trojan-malware-adware-root whatcha-call it security suite, and dutifully gave the appropriate tithes to pay for this great god’s protection, a pittance for its saving my virtual identity.
After the hour-or-so-long download, I sighed in relief that I and my virtual I were safe. Or so it seemed. For, deny it as I tried, I couldn’t not notice that my matrix-link that had been quick as mercury had become slow as lead, now running at half speed of my old machine. Thus, entered paranoia: as if economic, politic and moral collapses were not enough to stagger the frame of this Atlas.
After a few googles, I learned that my computer was probably attacked within the first ten minutes of being linked in; not only that but it was infected every ten or so minutes thereafter. I was a virtual leper or worse: unprotected, my very immune system could be compromised. I performed all the rites that the Verizon god had instructed. Thanks be to Verizon, safe. Right? My link’s protected, isn’t it? Enter Worry bird.
My link-up was still slow, slow even when not linked in: my just reward for not keeping up with the Jones. I would crawl long penance before I received again my wings. “Blessed be the virtual gods,” I might have cried out, but no. That wisdom comes only after suffering in long self-inflicted, self-pitying crawling. Thus it began, and there I was in the middle of a dark wood, unable to get out, truly unable to move, shameful to tell:
No time to further investigate and ameliorate the crisis, I cling to the unreasonable hope that nothing is really wrong. Back up my files and despair that the back ups too were food for vultures. Come back later when I have time. Come back later. Come back later. And all the while sleepless nights and a nagging conscience that I have let down the virtual gods and not only them: I have consigned my children to a life of poverty, a father reckless of his own identity. And all the while I was building up courage to face the hundred eyed, hundred armed monster and all the time I put it off and put it off with fingers crossed.
I could not dispel that nagging thought: my identity had been stolen by every pencil-necked criminal in the vast virtual world of geeks gone bad. Tum-tum, I meanwhile rested, unthinkingly worse than Hamlet, and did nothing: a wretched coward.
Days passed, weeks, months, even a new year. Then at last having imbibed enough courage, inspirited, I turned to face the manxome foe. It was a foe like none dreamed of. Oh horror, horror, horror! Unutterable. ALL the virtual wizards of all the virtual world asked: “Are you paranoid yet?” And all shouted at me with one accord: “Not paranoid enough!” And so it goes. Even Gandalf was terrified. From whom should I have courage? But, good fortune, the spirits had not quite worn off, my bravery had not yet left.
The unvirtual truth was that my computer began to almost freeze and crash and my backups were not that good. I could procrastinate no longer.
Aware enough to be afraid and yet ignorant enough to still have hope, I learned that the Verizon god is only one, and a weak one at that (and costly), in a pantheon of gods besieged by a much greater army of demons.
I proceeded to acquire and install all the best recommended virus immunizations, adware assassins, spy-killers, fire-walls, adamantine-walls, every best known defense I could find.
Then came the full revelation. It turns out that my problem all along was that I did not have sufficient memory to run my anti-viral arsenal. In my slovenly insobriety I had ignorantly assumed that my computer actually had enough memory to work the minimal tasks I put it to. But no, if one wants to defend his castle, he must pay the guards, and clearly I did not have sufficient resources to feed these eating machines.
As consequence, I only ran a half dozen or more different Trojan assassins. The rest would have to wait until I could purchase the resources necessary to feed my army. However, the real revelation from the great wizards, who are remarkably like the Oz variety, is that even though I detected not a single nasty on my machine, that is only a sure sign that there is something really nasty and deep down rooting into the very core of my virtual being.
One must run at least ten to twenty different of these mercenary-Trojan-assassins in order to rest not assured, but at least relatively more at ease. And there’s the additional problem that the one program I hastily downloaded in order to determine what kind of RAM I need to feed my troops could itself be a Trojan horse. Apparently WOT is not fool proof.
Moreover, I made a-grievous-nother mistake: I began to think. How can I be sure I am safe? I was now also informed and know that the majority of sites that advertise as security services are actually nothing but pirate outfits; that there are more bad guys than good guys; that the bad guys can pose as good guys and vote themselves good guys on WOT; that perhaps maybe WOT and FireFox and even Avast are the most brilliant spies of all, the inner circle of assassins that secretly direct the whole apparent warfare in Matrix.
In short, who is to guard the guards? Thus, goes my dizzying intellect, my German mind having spent too long a time in uffish thought, in this matter far superior to the mind of a Sicilian “when death is on the line” though doomed to the same fate.
But there’s no need to recount the whole whirling dervish of my thoughts. Suffice it to say, it is just the sort of stuff, when it gets in a head of mine takes a life of its own, an uber-monster, the very stuff of the Krell monster. And like monsters dreamt up on forbidden planets, it is unconquerable.
The conclusion was obvious: I can only trust myself. But what hope for a digital ignoramus and neophyte like myself to outmine the millions who have long ago already figured out a way to undermine any infantile attempt of mine. I must rule it out altogether, consign myself to defeat, await my pending doom.
But the noggin didn’t rest there. Unsatisfied, we have found a solution. At first, I thought it might suffice simply to unlink myself. Shut down all possible credit and bank account hijackings and unplug. However, I know better. They are too smart and that is trusting in futile hope.
The Ethernet gods will be avenged, and besides I already had witnessed the invasion. The orcs have arrived, the virtual world did strike the real world. And the only way I might be unscathed is to trust in the gods, but I’ve already disconnected from them; so, that too is futile hope.
The only solution is through more uffish thought: how to deliver the snicker-snack? That is the question. I cannot use my internet or computer savy since I have none, so I must use my real calculator, Jeeves’ like, and come up with a brilliant ‘fix’ that only Jeeves could. What would Jeeves do?
I thought. I could completely remove myself from the virtual world: shut down my bank account altogether, destroy all credit cards, wipe out my virtual self, in a sense commit virtual hara-kiri to avoid my own real destruction. It would work. For a time. Then all my other better-founded conspiracy theories rushed back into my head at once, and I knew it was but a short-lived solution.
The real solution is a preemptive strike. The bad guy pencil-necks want to steal my identity. It was not enough to lose my identity, destroy it, change it, become a new virtual me, even utterly obliterate or make meaningless the virtual me. I had to make it impotent, harmless, a virtual eunuch, and somehow render the theft of my virtual me harmless (at least to me), also an excellent revenge on my would be other me’s. But how to do it?
I decided we would completely unplug, pull out, leave not only the virtual world but all worlds possibly affected by the virtual world. We would follow the example of Lot (though my daughters will not). My children shall be raised after the customs of those in the world of Mad Max. If you want to contact me, you cannot: we have no virtual address, or real for that matter and it would be foolish of me to tell.
Let Jabber gurgle all he wants. The Bandersnatch is slain! And I can chortle away.
In all seriousness, thanks for all your help, Bill.
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