(Reprinted from 2600 Magazine, Spring, 2001)
It’s odd the people you keep in your address book. As a reader of 2600 for the past eight years, you learn a lot about what people will and won’t find offensive. You learn that people will complain about things that affect them, and won’t complain if it hasn’t affected them yet.
When I received the Anna Virus, I knew it for what it was: a program created by some hacker that had been sent to me unwittingly by another individual. I guessed it might be a worm that would be sent out to another user after an inadvertent reading or clicking of the email message containing it.
Within minutes I was receiving phone calls and emails, some laughing and joking, others solemn and angry, from all the people in my address book. Some were asking what I had sent. One man even wanted help opening the attachment. “I’m sure she’s hot,” he replied. “But my mail program won’t open the picture.”
I had sent email to people who owed me money, to people I am in litigation with, to women I haven’t called after an affair went sour, to men I had admired, to persons I had feared.
Worst of all, I hadn’t just sent an email. I had sent them the virus.
It took a few hours to sink in the potential impact of what had happened and you can imagine that I could have been angry. I could have been dismayed. But I had made the choice to try the virus anyway. I had been in good company. CNN carried news of the virus well into the next few days. I was elated and disgusted at the same time. I had burned bridges and made others laugh at my actions. I felt happy I had made no mistake. I had run the virus on purpose.
Now the most important question many would ask is why create such an ugly virus? “Why do hackers have to waste so much time and money on destructive forces?” they demand to know. My response is simple. If the virus I received had short-circuited my copy of Windows, if it had sent instructions to my hard drive to reach for a sector that didn t exist, gouging a new hole in my storage space, the Anna Virus would have been wrong and sickly twisted, something I could hate.
But it didn’t. It taught me, and many of you, a lesson. It taught us to guard against such threats and to be ever wary of what we see and open. It took nothing from me, nothing but a little pride, which I could make do without. And the Anna Virus introduced me to people I haven’t spoken to in a long, long, time.
Their emails may begin with “I think you have a virus….” But they all end with “So how are you doing these days? How is life?”