You call him a hacker, I call him a burglar.
October 6, 2004
I don’t need an epigraph for this essay. You could probably provide one from personal experience.
On Friday our computer had an unwelcome visitor. It sneaked in uninvited under the cover of an offer of free literature. It brought friends (or accomplices) with it and took control of my computer away from me. I lost data and time. By the middle of the third day, I was pricing a replacement computer. Then the local technician became available, entered the computer with his mystic skills, and exorcised the stubborn demon within – for a very modest fee at that.
Some of you are saying I got off easy. These destructive programs have been around the Internet for years, and if this is the first time I have been hit hard I should consider myself blessed. It cost me just a little money and some inconvenience for my family. I should stop whining and grow up. It could have been worse.
In our case, I don’t believe this was simply a prank. Shortly after we discovered the problem, the screen began to fill with ads; the intruder had opened the door wide. Several of these ads offered to sell me a program to get rid of ads! The coincidence was too much for me. It was as though I was supposed to say, "Oh look, I just got this problem on my computer and right away here is the solution, for just twenty-nine ninety-five! Isn’t that timely!" That’s not what I said.
If it happened to me, it’s happening to thousands routinely. Ethically, it’s burglary. Why should we put up with that? If there is no law against it, there ought to be, and the punishments draconian enough to be a deterrent when anyone gets caught.
The search engines and local internet providers share the responsibility for protecting their customers. If they claim not to know how, that's roughly equivalent to building an apartment house without fire escapes.
Come to think of it, my provider is a Cooperative, and I’m a member.
About the Author:
Barnabas promises not to be angry when he knows he is the only victim.
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