• U.S.

The Worm Turns…Out To Be A Bust

3 minute read
Joel Stein

When I heard that a major worm, code red, was about to strike computers worldwide, I immediately got on my Mac and tried to catch it. I figured if I could infect my computer so badly that it broke, I wouldn’t have to do the little bit of work expected of me. If the affliction went well, I might bring down all of AOL Time Warner. I have a real problem with the company since it took away our Snapple. That, and I had to sit through part of that last Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie.

I searched Google for “virus desired,” but all I learned was that there are some really weird fetish newsgroups out there. About three hours into my Web-based research, I got distracted by an e-mail from a friend that seemed chock full of virus. The e-mail read, “Hi! How are you? I send you this file in order to have your advice.” I knew it was a virus because my friend’s first language is English. Unfortunately, when I tried to open the attachment, my e-mail program detected the virus and wouldn’t let me download it. I don’t know why it draws the line there but lets me continue to correspond with a guy whose screen name is “Butterface.”

It turns out that only websites, not users, can catch Code Red. And not much happened even to them. The biggest damage was done to a Pentagon public website, which was slowed down a bit. The Pentagon site, upon investigation, doesn’t contain much in the way of sensitive material, other than the somewhat surprising fact that Pentagon employees consume 1,700 pints of milk each day. Pints of milk that are, no doubt, $40 each.

In fact, every virus has been a letdown: Melissa; the Love Bug; Michelangelo; BubbleBoy; the Sniffling, Sneezing, Aching, Stuffy-Head, Fever Virus. Even Y2K turned into nothing. Which is good, except that I’m still eating milletloaf every night.

All this media attention is being squandered on overhyped computer illnesses while we ignore the real threat to America: me. I’m decimating a venerable newsgathering institution every week from the inside by printing columns about my sexual deviancies, and people are freaking out that menwholooklikekennyrogers.com might go down for a few hours. Every time one of these virus stories hits, people get distracted and I get fewer and fewer pieces of hate mail. And the lack of attention just makes me more dangerous. Ask my mother about when my little sister was born. Most kids just ask if their sisters can be put back.

So I’ve set about creating my own virus, the first created by someone who is not the manufacturer of antivirus software. By “creating,” I mean writing about it and hoping a reader makes it for me. The Stein Virus Variant A will find Web users over 60 and e-mail them my column every week. Stein Virus Variant B will infiltrate the AOL home page and jam it with a big story about what Erik Estrada is up to now. You can imagine how disheartened I was to discover that that’s exactly what is already on the AOL home page.

I’ll need to strike soon, before the virus hype fades. People are bound to realize that even though we don’t understand how computers work, we can’t let our ignorance prevent us from trusting technology. It didn’t even get in the way of my writing about it.

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