Woman Shocked To Find That Unsolicited Email Attachment Was Actually Virus
46 year-old Ava Morrison recently unleashed a destructive virus on her computer at the Burbank, California dentist's office where she works as a secretary -- something she says she did completely unwittingly and is still in "complete and utter shock" about.
"I just don't understand it," she told the office computer technician, who had to bear the bad news that the computer would need to be completely reformatted. "I can't begin to understand how this happened."
According to Morrison, she was using the computer as normal this past Thursday, "clicking along happily" and feeling secure in her activities.
"I may not know all the technical ins and outs of computers, but I sure as heck know how to work the email program on the computer, and I think I'm pretty good with the machine overall, to boot," she said with some indignation. "So when I open the program, like I did this past Thursday, I'm careful to make sure to click on the icon several times, which discourages hackers."
Morrison added with a frown, "Sometimes it also makes the computer freeze up and reset, but that's the price of security in this high tech world, I suppose."
But after eventually gaining access to her Inbox in Outlook Express, Morrison proceeded to open an email that would eventually prove to contain a damaging virus -- although at the time, she had "no idea" of the consequences to come.
"The subject of the email was 'Thank You very very much', which made me feel safe already, as I knew a virus writer -- or 'hacker', as they can also be called -- would not be thanking me for anything," she explained.
Morrison said she also felt safe despite the fact that she did not recognize the sender of the email, as well as the fact that the email did not seem to be addressed to her email address at all.
"The email was addressed to 'GreenDayModerator@hotmail.com', which did worry me a little, as my email address is nothing like that," she confessed. "But I just figured that the person at that email address might have gotten the thank you note that was intended for me, and kindly forwarded it to me after realizing the error."
"That can happen, you know," she added wisely, nodding her head. "It happens in the postal mail -- by which I mean, 'snail mail' -- so it can also happen in electronic mail, too."
The body of the email, however, did prove to be confusing.
"The email said, 'That you have paid for me! And that's your card, too!'" Morrison recalled. "And I have to admit, that did make me a little scared, since I couldn't remember 'paying for' anyone lately, not to mention that the other sentence didn't make any sense at all."
In the end, however, Morrison decided to trust her judgment and open the email attachment, rationalizing that the message was probably just an obscure joke that she did not yet understand.
"I actually thought it might be from Donna around the corner in the office here," Morrison said. "She's such a jokester, and this kind of random, nonsensical humor is just up her alley. One time she said to me, 'Did you hear about the Iraqi prisoners? They're saying now that the orders to abuse during interrogation came from Rumsfeld himself!' I just laughed and laughed. Where does she come up with this stuff, that's what I want to know!"
But after opening the attachment, which was labeled "notvirus.exe", and agreeing to install and run the program, Morrison was subjected to a screen reading, "Legal1ze pot!"
"I couldn't believe they could use that kind of language on a computer!" she exclaimed. "I half-expected the FBI to be all over me in a second!"
Morrison, however, kept her cool, reasoning that what she was seeing could not be her fault.
"I thought the screen was someone's old Microsoft Word document -- that intern Samuel seems like he might be a marijuana smoker, in particular -- so I looked for the little 'x' in the corner to close it," she said. "But there just was none. That's when I knew things were going badly."
At that point, she took what she said was the best possible course of action to cure the computer, curling up into a small ball and whimpering until someone eventually called tech support. Now past the incident with a new computer, Morrison says she is a little more aware of potential viruses on the Internet, and encourages others to be cautious, too.
"Believe me, you don't think the hackers can address you with friendly subject headings, and you don't think viruses are even real things, but they are," Morrison said gravely. "All it takes is too few clicks when you open Outlook Express, and there they are, pretending to be jokesters but really being pranksters."