The Worm My Dad Sent Me

My dad loves his computer. I think, like his son, he is obsessed with this unbelievable access to nearly anything. But, he is not a sophisticated user. And, in his defense, that puts him squarely in line with the vast majority of other computer users.

Earlier this evening, my dad received the official looking email on the right from Microsoft. With all the viruses and worms going around, Microsoft was proactively sending out a patch to fix yet another weakness. Except, the message wasn’t from Microsoft.

I wouldn’t know any of this, except, sometime after 10:00 PM Thursday, I received the very same email. But, to me, something looked fishy. Microsoft doesn’t email software patches! In fact, though I’ve registered all my Microsoft products, I don’t think I’ve ever received anything from Microsoft.

I ‘opened’ the email up and took a look at the code. I could see the path the message took to get to me. It originated somewhere on Adelphia is a cable TV provider with high speed Internet service and my dad is a subscriber.

I looked closer.

The originator of the email was there… not in name, but in IP address. Though we type or email to, these ‘people friendly’ addresses are translated into the raw IP numbers (the equivalent of street addresses) before they’re sent on their way.

The IP address was my dad’s.

I said, “You know not to open unexpected attachments.” He said, “It was from Microsoft.” And, of course, to him that’s what it seemed.

The writers of this worm, which I’ve since learned is Win32.Swen.A, knew no one would execute this program unless they were tricked. And, it’s a damned good trick. The email message looks legit.

In the past I’ve gotten similar messages posing as security queries from PayPal. Send us your login name, password and credit card.

Enough is enough. It’s time we changed our methods of email.

As it stands right now, this network of networks, designed when only those invited could get on, is too trusting. If you say you’re someone, the Internet inherently believes that. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s time for a new mail protocol which will verify the sender is who he says he is. Maybe we can cut down on, or even eliminate, spam while we’re at it.

It will be a painful transition, because the mail programs we now use aren’t up to the task. But, we have gone beyond the point of hoping the Internet will cure itself.