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Oh Be Careful Little Eyes, What You See...
Note: Some names/details have been changed to protect the innocent. :)
So goes a Sunday school rhyme I learned as a kid. It continues, "there's a Father up above, looking down in love, so be careful little eyes, what you see." Additional stanzas warn about what hands touch, what your ears hear, and where your feet go.
Well, I should add one: Oh be careful little fingers what you type. Here's an example of why.
Just to set the context, let me explain that I get email and messages left on my web site, most of which are very nice, and kind, and I'm happy to hear from people who read my web site. But occasionally, I get some funny ones, or odd ones, or rude ones. Here are a couple examples:
u who r u u r so sad
From: sunil arya
how i can earn money on internet i am a student.
Hello, I heard that it is possible, but I don't know for sure... Could I have money back from tax returns if: 1. I work two jobs:one full time job and one part time. 2. I bought brand new house in Will County ( March 2000) 3. I had to buy a car for transportation to work. 4. Also, I worked two jobs last year and I didn't have any money back-Could I have another tax return for 1999 year ? Thank you for this information. From: (blank)
Re: my Newport page
Message: never come back to this city again
Re: My downtown web page
These guys are hot!!!! how could I meet them? If you are in So. Cal. anytime I would be interested in meeting you and your friends. Love---
From: Bob at Canon USA, New York, IT Director
The following person hacked into my computer. I have a tool called BlackICE installed which reported this offense... Please take appropriate action.
Re: My Mark's 22nd web page
I think that Dane looks like he might be pretty sexy. My name is Jen. I am 16 and live in Chicago, IL. Send me a bigger pic of him and/or have him email me. Thanks!
So... sometimes I'm amused. Sometimes I'm angry: "why do people keep writing me!!" But most of the time I just ignore the message. I gotta expect with a large web site like mine with 2000 pictures on it, I'll get some odd messages about them once in a while.
Remember that Sesame Street game: "One of these things is not like the other ones... one of these things is not the same..."? Well, take a look at the messages above. One of them was serious. Yep: you guessed it, the purple one about the hack attempt. Unfortunately, I shot back a hasty, rude response, or what's called a flame in Internet terminology. Here's the full text:
(Okay... so it wasn't really a flame war, I'm being a little dramatic, here. Which is usually what gets me in trouble in the first place, I guess).
Bob wrote: Dear Server Admin,
The following person hacked into my computer. I have a tool called BlackICE installed which reported this offense. It does not appear that they caused any problems other than to temporarily disable my network. If this continues I will report it to the appropriate authorities.
Please take appropriate action.
Below are the rows from the BlackICE Attack-list.csv file. (Minus my IP Address)
Bob Clark, IS Manager, Canon USA Incorporated
BlackIce Attack List
(some server log stuff I don't understand)
I shot back: (inappropriate, out of place, I know, I know, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...)
>Dear Server Admin,
>The following person hacked into my computer. I have a tool called
>BlackICE installed which reported this offense. It does not appear that
>they caused any problems other than to temporarily disable my network.
>If this continues I will report it to the appropriate authorities.
Ha! Tough luck for you.
>Please take appropriate action.
Nope. I'm not going to do a single thing... you should expect stuff like this to happen.
Better luck next time. Happy New Year.
So he wrote back:
I guess by your response you are giving me permission to hack into all your
computers.... Too Bad for you.
And that was it.
Afterall, I'm just a part-time professor, part-time graduate student at USC. Not in charge of any network stuff at Biola. But then, a couple days later my Biola email got disabled, and I got a call from a network administrator at Biola. He had disabled my account assuming that a hacker had written the above message signed by me. Because surely a Biola professor (even a part-time one) would not have such a flippant, rude attitude towards the IS Manager of a major company! And yes, he should be able to expect that. But I did in fact write the rude message.
So I wrote back, apologizing Bob,
You wrote a couple days ago about a hack attempt from node154-208064012.biola.edu.
I'm sorry: I didn't take your message seriously, so I flamed you back saying something irreverent like "tough luck", and "I'm not going to do anything about it". I didn't take it seriously because the return address was from the cable modem rr.com domain, not Canon, and because the message was to me. I'm just a user of the Biola network, not in charge of anything there, so I can't do anything about it.
So: I appologize for responding inappropriately. I can assure you that the Biola network administrators do take hack attempts seriously, as I'm sure you've heard from them already.
And he wrote back, accepting my apology:
From: Bob Clark
Apology accepted. I appreciate you responding and explaining your
actions. I sometimes work from home and use Roadrunner as my ISP. I
realized that you were not directly involved in the management of Biola's
computer network but was hoping you would forward it to the appropriate
people. I found your email address in the email directory at Biola. You
were the only Comp. Sci. faculty member with an email address. This is why
I sent my original response to you. I have since heard from (network admin) and
I have forwarded additional detail to him.
Thanks again for your response.
After I got his apology, I checked my other Biola email account, and found out later that he had sent a message to several important people at Biola including the Biola Provost.
And the Vice President of Financial Affairs.
And the Vice President of University Services.
I heard about it when the VP of Financial Affairs wrote me, forwarding Bob's message:
From: (VP Finance)
Subject: FW: Computer Hack
To: Weathers, Matthew
Could you fill me in on what this is about??
From: (Bob at Canon)
Subject: Fw: Computer Hack
To: (Provost), (VP Finance), (VP Univesity Services), etc, etc.
Dear Biola University,
I am hoping that the attached responses from Mr. Weathers to my earlier email does not represent the general opinion of Biola University. I would expect all abuses of the University computing infrastructure to be taken extremely seriously. Hacking into someone else's computer is a legal offense considered a form of Larceny and Theft in both the State of California and New York. I find it appalling that Professor Weathers refuses to take any action not to mention his sarcastic comments. I would expect any faculty member from the Computer Science department to be concerned and take appropriate action. In addition I would expect much more from a faculty member of a top Christian University. This type of response makes me question Mr. Weathers Christian beliefs. I wonder how the companies on your Board of Trustees would feel if they had their computers hacked into by someone at Biola University.
Maybe Mr. Weathers was the wrong person to contact but he was the only professor in the Computer Science department that I could locate an email address for. I have reported this offense to the Security Officer for Canon USA Incorporated and will continue to pursue this matter through our internal channels. This email is only intended to inform you of the event and Mr. Weathers irresponsible reply.
Bob Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
(Full phone/address info)
Yikes! "Legal offense", "I would expect more...", "Board of Trustees", "question Mr. Weathers' Christian beliefs". Scary stuff. Oops!
Moral of the Story
First of all, be nice. Don't be sarcastic or rude. Also: don't write hasty emails in anger. On BUBBS (Biola's email system), it's possibly to retract a message you sent someone if they haven't read it yet. And I've done that a few times. But you can't do that with general Internet email.
Finally: don't joke about network security. It's sort of like making jokes about bombs in your luggage at an airport. Or joking about having guns to the Mexican border guards. There are certain situations where no one has a sense of humor (appropriately).
So basically... the moral of the story is: Be careful little fingers what you type!
Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Apr 20, 2006.