By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
“CNN Alert: My Custom Alerts.”
That’s what the subject line of the e-mail said. I didn’t remember subscribing to anything by that name. But who can you trust if not CNN? (Actually, my answer would be FOX News, but . . .)
Anyway, I clicked on the e-mail, was taken to a site that told me I needed to upgrade a “Flash” plug-in to read the content, and . . . somewhere along the line, a “pop-up” ad popped up, and a fairly impressive-looking program screen told me that “Antivirus XP 2008” had found some potentially harmful files on my computer and was running a scan. Then came the bad news: I had 3,130 viruses. My computer was more virus-riddled than a kindergarten class spreading chicken pox.
It just didn’t ring true, though I was pretty sure the weird behavior of my computer indicated that some “potentially harmful” files had indeed been welcomed aboard and were more than “potentially” harmful. The bogus program had pretty much taken control of my computer and was making it hard for me to get to the Internet to find out what I’d just done. The program didn’t want me to pull down a “malware” or “spyware” removal program, because it was trying to “protect” me. It was actually trying, with a good bit of success, to propagate.
To make the long story a bit shorter, I’ll just tell you that I did finally find on the Web a good bit of genuine information about this pernicious “malware” program, including a number of possible ways to exterminate it. (The term “malware” is a relatively new techie term that combines “software” with the Latin root meaning “bad,” as in “malicious,” “malignant,” etc. It is all of those things.
I chose an anti-malware program recommended by an expert sufficiently “geeky” that I felt he knew whereof he spoke. And, after running a scan that kept me up late into the night or early into the morning, I managed to find and, I hope, destroy, 63 pernicious files of various sorts. (Less than 3,130 but malfeasant enough nonetheless. “Malfeasant”: “engaging in misconduct or wrong-doing.”)
I think I’m on the road to a “cured” computer, though what I may still find in the next few days has me a tad concerned. I also wonder how many e-mails my computer sent out from my address but without my permission telling people that they have a “CNN Alert” of their very own, and all they have to do is click and read. Perhaps “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”) needs to be updated: “Let the clicker beware!” Or something like that.
All of this makes me think. If we own computers, we surely need to be careful what we allow into our operating systems. But it’s even more important what we allow into our lives. Greed and envy, anger, bitterness, covetousness and such, may not be labeled “mal-ware,” but they do indeed mess up lives.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org