Monday, June 23, 2008

Political spam emails and computer safety.

"Fwd: FWD: Fwd: fwd: OBAMA TO DISARN THE MILITARY!" reads one of those mass spam political emails. Surely everyone has somehow received one of these at some point. No doubt they are extremely popular because they confirm already established assumptions about a candidate. The internet has a wonderful way of justifying any opinion or claim because all human beings are characterized by some measure of credulity. The body of the email contained a link to a video in which Obama was said to have laid out this particular stance. Long have the creators of malicious code used gripping headlines to pull unsuspecting individuals on to suspicious websites. The Storm Worm is a classic example that persists to this day, creating an army of zombie computers ready to attack anyone or anything for hire. The email that is the subject of this post linked back to a throwaway Wordpress site and was originally sent by an email address consisting of what appeared to be part of an MD5 hash. Besides involving Nigerian banks, there isn't much more an email can do to find itself on the radar of a moderately aware user. Before trashing it, I alerted everyone it was sent to it might be dangerous. The final humor of this scenario is the the person who sent this to me is still miffed I suggested it was a possible attack site. I had assumed they were already compromised and it was automatically being sent to everyone in their contacts list. It hadn't occurred to me it might just be stupid rather than a security concern. Better safe than sorry though - I recommend the new and extremely popular Firefox 3 web browser with Adblock Plus and the NoScript addons. (As an aside: the funny part is I would be really happy if this particular email was true. The United States spends more on its military than the entire rest of the world combined. I'm reminded of the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, possibly the last competent person with some measure of integrity to hold the office of President:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
This was no pacifist. He was Supreme Allied commander in the European theater and served with distinction before then. He'd never be elected today with these views, and anyone trying to claim we face a greater threat today than the Soviet empire at the end of the 50s is either fooling themselves or needs to pick up a history book.)

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