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The Tentacle


January 8, 2003

Even Emails Can Contain Political Tricks With No Consequences

David 'Kip' Koontz

Politics is a funny business. It makes people do funny things. Well, not necessarily funny, as in "ha, ha" funny, but funny is a "not doing things in a socially accepted form of prudent behavior" kind of funny.

Case in point.

During the 2002 election campaign, there was an organization that was called "The Defeat Mooney Committee." Its intended purpose was to raise issues in hopes of influencing people to think negatively about State Senator Alex Mooney. Some people didnít like the committee, its members, or its purpose one little bit. Some even went out of their way to bring harm to those who were involved.

For example, on the day the full page advertisement in Frederick Magazine hit the streets, all members of the committee received from six to eight emails, mostly from addresses linked to anti-gay web sites, telling them how bad and awful they were. These missives came through the "Contact Us" link on the committeeís web page.

Unfortunately, at least one of these emails contained a highly potent virus, sophisticated enough to bypass the computerís anti-virus system. Boom, there went the computer.

Immediately the word went out to all members of The Defeat Mooney Committee warning of the offending message and with an admonition not to open any email attachments coming through the groupís website.

This incident was reported to the appropriate authorities, who seemed genuinely interested, particularly in the fact that the return address on the emails listed someone local and somewhat prominent in efforts to re-elect Senator Mooney.

The Frederick County Sheriffís Department conducted an investigation. It lasted a few days, after which the committee members were told there was not enough information available, and the case was closed.

Not long after that a call was placed to the deputy who conducted the "investigation" requesting copies of some of the information provided to that officer by members of the committee. The deputy said that because the case was now closed, the material requested had been destroyed.

Curious!

More recently, another email arrived with the same senderís name appearing in the return address and with another attachment. This now-more-than-just-cautious email recipient did not open the message or download the attachment. According to a friend who is "in the know about computers," the attachment contained another virus so potent that it, too, would have destroyed the new computer purchased to replace the old one already destroyed by the first virus.

This particular email arrived the day after this writer took Mr. Mooney to task in a column on The Tentacle. Again this was reported to the authorities, who sent the information to the State Police, who have far more sophisticated equipment to deal with computer crime.

After almost five months of waiting, I have been informed that there is - again - not enough evidence that the person, whose name was linked to the email message, had intentionally sent a virus-laden message. So, again, the matter has been dropped.

Blah! Blah! Blah!

Well, I am not convinced that the person whose name appeared on those emails did not send those messages with evil intent. We have long opposed each other on many issues and the dislike for each other is mutual.

The saddest part of all of this is the current status of laws regarding such happenings. According to what the members of The Defeat Mooney Committee were told, the only way to prove that the alleged sender of those emails actually sent them, is for that person to admit that they sent them.

Seriously, anyone can send you emails knowingly containing viruses that can and will destroy your computer. And, if they are at all clever, they will say they didnít do it, or any variation of that, and - BAM - they get off clean as a whistle.

Some system, isnít it?

In this case, when all those involved were inextricably linked, I was doubtful from the beginning that the outcome would be any different that what it was.

Computer owners beware! If you get attacked by a virus, and even if it looks as if it is clear who sent the email to you, plan on bucking up, buying a new computer, and pray that the person who sent you that email is repaid in kind for their actions, because that is all that is going to happen to them - legally.



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