The Perils Of E-Mail? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The Perils Of E-Mail?

Wow! Front page on the Sunday paper, San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley, a whole article creating FEAR around sending e-mail. Oh-o-o-o. And absolutely NOTHING mentioned about Canada or the United Kingdom mobilizing their military for Y2K. Is there a master puppeteer somewhere in the background? Trying to pull the strings of those using the internet and communicating on it? Gee, I wonder? Inquiring minds ...

Published: Sunday, Nov. 8, 1998 -- San Jose Mercury News

E-mail is generally thought of as ephemeral. But the Microsoft trial has shown that old messages can come back to haunt you. -- Story by Mercury News Staff, Writer Larry Slonaker

The Perils of E-mail Write now, pay later: Antitrust case spotlights the sting of old messages

Saying One Thing, Meaning Another

BY LARRY SLONAKER Special to the Mercury News

It's been said a thousand times. E-mail is fraught with peril, it can fall into the wrong hands, and it's a breeding ground for juvenile jokes and vicious gossip and time-wasting personal business.

But there's nothing like seeing that play out on a courtroom stage, in front of the whole country, to really get people's attention. There's nothing like seeing the phrase ``cut off (Netscape's) air supply'' printed over and over in the papers to make bosses choke on their leftover Halloween candy.

In the wake of the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft, which relies heavily on e-mail as evidence, this popular form of cyber-communication is coming under increased scrutiny. ``People are talking about the dangers of putting things into writing using e-mail,'' said Judit Havadtoy, a systems analyst for a Silicon Valley software utilities manufacturer.

``There is definitely a new awareness now....''

Personally, I just cant help wondering, after reading this article, and others if the whole Microsoft on Trial grandstanding is a tactic to keep media focus off Y2K. And an attempt to spread FEAR about communicating. (Remember the childrens acronym for F-E-A-R -- False Evidence Appearing Real). Whos afraid here? Afraid that intelligent people might figure out the TRUTH of the precarious Y2K situation were in? Are we going to see continuing emphasis on why we should not be communicating openly over the internet? An attempt to put a damper on freedom of digital speech?

Come on, media guys, et. al. Wrong strategy (uh, vision).


* * ' * * ' * * ' * * ' * * ' * * ' * * '

Is anyone else seeing indications that the media is trying to create an aura of fear around communicating on the internet?

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 09, 1998


Diane, normally I have absolutly no problem with your messages, BUT

"Personally, I just cant help wondering, after reading this article, and others if the whole Microsoft on Trial grandstanding is a tactic to keep media focus off Y2K. And an attempt to spread FEAR about communicating. (Remember the childrens acronym for F-E-A-R -- False Evidence Appearing Real). Whos afraid here? Afraid that intelligent people might figure out the TRUTH of the precarious Y2K situation were in? Are we going to see continuing emphasis on why we should not be communicating openly over the internet? An attempt to put a damper on freedom of digital speech? "

As a member of the press, all I can say is....uh...ok. Yes, we, the members of the press, meet in darkened, smoke filled rooms and discuss "How will we get the American public today?!?!?" "I know! Tell them e-mail is scary and don't use it!" What is the love affair people seem to have with thinking all members of the media are in some sort of grand conspiracy against the public-at-large? I can honestly say, swearing on any holy book of your choosing, I have never been talked to about conspiring, I have never conspired to commit a conspiracy, I have never been asked to write something that would contribute to a conspiracy and nothing I have written has ever been edited post-submission to turn it into a conspirital piece.


-- Rick Tansun (, November 09, 1998.

I've given up reading the newspapers/watching TV since the medai has just become a means of diseminating propaganda of one sort or other. The London Times has been completely dumbed down (full of pictures and large adverts), the tabloids do not now have headlines with more than 3 or perhaps four short words. I once analysed one entire edition of the Times found most of it to contain opinion masquerading as fact or not actually any NEWS at all mostly the views of the authors. I even checked up some of the articles with the people concerned found them to be erroneous. The media will also only report what they want you to hear. "What is truth (under deomcracy)? That which the press wills. Its commands evoke, transform, and interchange truths. Three weeks of press work and the "truth" is acknowledged by everybody. Mass eductaion tends to shepherd the masses into the newspapers power area. Of course there is freedom of speech in democracy, but the press is free to take or not to take, notice of what the citizen says. It can condemn any truth to death by simply passing it in silence by not communicating it to the world."

No an answer to your question but what the media has become.

-- Richard Dale (, November 09, 1998.

I don't buy the conspiracy idea, at least not on the part of the press.

What Diane suggested however, was a conspiracy on the part of the government (they brought the Microsoft suit, not the press).

One of the other threads here suggested that the suit was a byproduct of governmental fears that they would be made obsolete by "electronic voting".

Something doesn't fit here.

If the government fears the implementation of electronic voting, they must not be at all worried about Y2K. I think it more likely that the government is only doing what worked for them before. At about this point in mainframe development, the government did the same thing to IBM.

I honestly don't see anything more sinister in the Microsoft suit than the government trying to guard its power by keeping all challengers weak and divided.

And that's quite sinister enough for me, thank you!

-- Hardliner (, November 09, 1998.

Diane, as far as I have ever been able to tell, the media does not try to cover up stories. They just want to sell newspapers/tv/radio advertising. This means that they will print what they think will sell for the most part - with some stories meant to inform or entertain. Y2K will not meet that criteria before 1/1/99 - and will become a bigger story each time someone gripes about some program or other failing to rollover or whatever. By this time next year the papers will have everyone convinced that we are heading for a 7 or 8 at least - given the usual exaggeration for effect that means they would expect a 3 or 4. (Your personal psychic - PD)

About the Microsoft thing - MS has used some nasty tactics in the past to gain market share. They became similar to IBM and the way they tried to keep dominating the market - most of you younger guys don't remember EBCDIC which IBM pushed to try to destroy ASCII, or the microchannel bus / OS2 push which was meant to close the PC open architecture. Microsoft has pulled many stunts of the same stripe - and even now is making deals with INTEL to attempt to close the open architecture of the PC - check out the new instructions on the new chips - and any new set of instructions that speed up Windows 98 will hurt the other chip makers. Great deal for MS and INTEL, sucks for everyone else. It is both unethical and illegal to conceal vital information about an OS for the benefit of the company writing the OS - given that please explain why the most popular computer books among software developers since MS-DOS 3.2 came out all have titles beginning with something like 'Undocumented Functions in Microsofts latest Whatevertheheck'. The only explanation you have looks pretty bad on old MS. And the standard MS excuse 'unreliable functions that may be changed and you should not use them' is a crock - there is plenty of 'snooper' software for determining which functions a program calls and anyone who buys the MS line must explain why the MS Office Suite calls these functions. Stinks, doesn't it.

-- Paul Davis (, November 09, 1998.


I dont even remotely think you as a responsible reporter arent doing your job.

I tried an experiment of my own with the local San Jose Mercury News. I sent Arnies article and link to the Canadian Globe and Mail on Canadas...

Army fears civil chaos from millennium bug Huge deployment would deal with fallout from computer failures UTWOON.html four different Technology writers at my local paper. I did get a response back that they are working on Y2K articles from the head columnist. Its been over a week now, and nothing has been mentioned about Canada, or about the memo leaked from the Scottish Home Office about the U.K. military preparation. Nada. Complete muzzle about the implications. Now I ask you, if that doesnt look like the papers executive management or owners, is keeping a lid on the world news.

As pertains to Bill Gates and Microsoft, many of us are already aware that he has twisted source code. Thats why I prefer a Mac.


-- Diane J. Squire (, November 09, 1998.

I can't believe that I am in agreement with Paul on anything Y2K, but I think that his assessment makes a lot of sense. Our entire world thinks short-term, not long-term, and even at this late date Y2K is still perceived, when it is perceived at all, as something that is off the short-term radar screen. Early next year, maybe, Y2K will start getting the treatment that it should have started getting in 1995 (though still probably not very responsibly). Then, come April, when fiscal year 2000 roll-overs start causing real, true life tales of woe, the press will go wild!

-- Jack (, November 09, 1998.

Regarding the press, we all seem to have the same take on them, and it seems to support my contention on Rick's "what should the press do?" thread.

I think Paul is closest to the truth here, regarding the Microsoft suit. He certainly has his facts straight.

It would be helpful to keep in mind the premise that we are all more like our same-sex parent (or other primary caregiver) than any one else. While Bill Gates is, no doubt, a talented programmer himself, his father is a lawyer and surely had a great deal of influence on his son.

Paul also mentioned unethical and/or illegal conduct as a possible basis for the government's action.

In a perfect world, the Justice department would seek "justice" and thus a valid motivation appears for the Microsoft suit. I'm afraid that I would find it easier to believe that someone associated with Netscape (which btw is my choice of browser) made a large enough monetary contribution to the current administration somewhere along the line to "obtain justice". I remember well how one of the government's anti-trust suits against IBM collapsed days after the end of the administration when IBM hired the former AG of the US and made him a corporate VP. "Show me the money!"

As for ethics, I'm afraid that won't cut the mustard either. Capitalism, as an economic system, is the most efficient we know of. Quite simply, it works. It works because it goes hand in glove with humanity's "fatal flaw", greed. The "fatal flaw", if you will, in capitalism is that there is no inherent or associated ethical or moral system. Profit to the stockholders ultimately drives all decisions. Few corporations have chaplains. The US government attacking Microsoft on ethical grounds seems most akin to me to the quite bizarre idea of Saddam Hussein as prosecutor in the World Court war crimes trials of the Serbs!

And, Diane, about the Mac. . . While it shares the distinction of superior design and technology with the Betamax VCR, it also suffers (unfortunately) from a software market that caters to the IBM/Microsoft model. If your needs are met by what is available, you're fortunate, but if they're not, you must write your own software (a time consuming task, even if you have the skills) or "go with the flow" and settle for the "VHS" model.

-- Hardliner (, November 09, 1998.

If I was looking for a conspiracy concerning Email, I might look in the direction of the phone companies. They certainly are delighted with the plans to start charging/taxing per Internet minute. But then again, phone company profits aside, I think the government has more to fear from the Internet than even the phone companies. Too bad I'm not really into conspiracy theory. It might provide some interesting conversation. :-)

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 09, 1998.

I wouldn't characterize the relative silence of the media as a conspiracy. After all, most of the news we get on Y2K is via Internet news sources, which are usually gathered from the mainstream press. Problem is, very few people will seek out this info (other than us Y2K news junkies), and the local readership of every individual news outlet is left with a very small piece of a very large puzzle. Certainly not enough info with which to make an informed, rational decision based on the (overwhelming) evidence to date.

-- Steve Hartsman (, November 09, 1998.

The piece below about says it all as far as "freedom of digital speech" is concerned. There isn't any. As far as "creating an aura of fear," that all depends on whether it bothers you if Bigbro listens to every keystroke you make.

nemo... ===============================================

Want to know what they're saying about D.I.R.T.?

D.I.R.T. in the News

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Codex files 20 million dollar defamation suit in U.S.Federal Court

pressrelease.txt pressrelease.doc CDSsuit.pdf

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- D.I.R.T. premieres June 5, 1998 at SpookTech98 in New York City

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Network World - July 1998

DIRT Bugs Strike! By Winn Schwartau

"Imagine being able to monitor and intercept data from any PC in the world anytime you want.

Then DIRTs for you.

DIRT stands for Data Interception by Remote Transmission, and if Codex Data Systems in Bardonia, New York has anything to say about it, will become the next law enforcement tool to help stop the bad guys.

The cops are having a terrifically hard time dealing with cybercrime, and they all put on-line child pornography at the top of the list because of the emotional response to it. Suspected terrorists, drug traffickers, money launderers, are also potential targets for DIRT as are various criminal organizations which employ anonymity, remote control and encryption to hide themselves. DIRT represents a fabulous, but questionably legal/ethical means of information gathering by intelligence agencies as well as private investigators.

Thus Frank Jones and Codex Data Systems begat DIRT. "We have to give law enforcement the tools they need to get real criminals. So many of them are now using encryption, DIRT allows law enforcement to read encrypted messages."

DIRT operates surreptitiously like a Trojan Horse. It is transmitted secretly to a target via email in several ways: either as a proprietary protocol, self extracting executable, dummy segment fault, hidden ZIP file, application specific weakness, macro, a steganographic attachment or other methods the companys technical wizard, Eric Schneider will not divulge.

Once the DIRT-Bug is successfully embedded in the target machine, two things occur. One, all keystrokes at the keyboard are secretly captured and when the target machine is connected on-line, it will stealthily transmit the captured contents to a remotely located DIRT- Control Central for analysis. This is how encryption keys are to be discovered and later used to develop evidence in criminal cases.

Secondly, when the target is on-line, his PC will invisibly behave like an anonymous FTP server, giving the folks at DIRT-Control Center 100% access to all resources. So much for privacy!

Dave Banisar Staff Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC. said DIRT "Sounds like something the Stasi would have developed." The problem is enforcement and abuse he points out. "The only way to control this technology is after the fact, during the trial when the police have to show how they obtained evidence."

When I first saw DIRT demonstrated in New York (June 5, 1998), I thought, "What if this gets out to the entire Internet community what will happen if we no longer ever trust our email?"

The vast majority of computer crime goes unrecognized, unreported and unprosecuted. Despite the fact that the use of DIRT or a DIRT-like clone developed by the computer underground violates the Computer Abuse Act of 1984 and an assortment of other laws, the ability to control it remains extremely slim. And the uses for DIRT-like software stagger the imagination.

All that someone with DIRT needs to know is your email address. Period. All he has to do is send you an email, with the embedded DIRT- Trojan Horse and hes home free, and you are a clueless victim.

Large organizations usually worry about hackers breaking and entering their networks. Now they have reason to worry that DIRT-Bugs could invade their networks as well; whether launched by an investigating law enforcement authority, international competitors or spies, or just hackers. The last thing in the world they want is for critical workstations to be broadcasting passwords, encryption codes and providing complete system access to whoever controls DIRT-Central.

Unfortunately, most firms with whom I deal have little implementation of the minor policies they have developed. Thus, defending against DIRT can be difficult. However, organizations which utilize NAT and proxies in their firewalls achieve some degree of confidence that DIRTs remote access capability will not function. Just the keyboard strokes (and associated private information) will be broadcast to DIRT-Central.

According to the developers at Codex Data Systems, if you are a solitary PC sitting on a dial-up or a cable modem, there is nothing  today  you can do except dont click on your email attachments. Of course, ignoring email from strangers is always a good idea. But, if I were a cop or a bad guy using DIRT, I would certainly go after your home PC as well as the one at work. Its a whole lot easier, and I am going to learn just as much.

With the advent of more and more powerful Trojans, such as DIRT (which only occupies 20K), the threat to our networked systems gets clearer and clearer. As Frank Jones, the inventor says, "There are no more secrets with DIRT."

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

TechWeek - Sept. 1998

Beware the Keystroke Cops by Sarah Ellerman

Getting DIRT on criminals "There is another powerful tool for surreptitiously intercepting data, but it is only available to law enforcement and the military. Called DIRT (Data Interception and Remote Transmission), it was released in June by Codex Data Systems, Inc. Investigators need only know your e-mail address to secretly install the program. Once they do, investigators can read your documents, view your images, download your files and intercept your encryption keys. DIRT was developed to assist law enforcement in pedophilia investigations, but future uses could include drug investigations, money laundering cases and information warfare.

How is DIRT different from Back Orifice? The sale of DIRT is restricted, while Back Orifice is free for the downloading. Also, there are already fixes available for Back Orifice, but no way yet to defend against DIRT. "

Most feel secure when they encrypt their data, but its an illusion of comfort if a keystroke monitor is involved. DIRT defeated Pretty Good Privacy in a matter of minutes at a recent conference simply by stealing the users key as it was typed in."

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Internet & Intranet Business & Technology Report - Oct. 1998

D.I.R.T. - The Ultimate Competitive Intelligence Tool by Deb Cameron

"Codex Data Systems, Inc. of New York has created Data Interception for Remote Transmission (DIRT), a surveillance tool designed for law enforcement professionals. DIRT is similar to BO in some respects, but it is smaller (less than 18K versus 120K for BO) and yet more stealthy. It runs as a much lower level process and is virtually undetectable. In addition, it cannot be stopped by firewalls.

DIRT was originally developed to aid in the investigation of child pornographers and other isolated criminals using standalone PCs. By becoming a spy in the user's computer, the law enforcement official can gather needed evidence to successfully prosecute a criminal case. Frank Jones, creator of DIRT, surveyed the market for computer surveillance tools to aid law enforcement professionals. When he found no suitable products, he began developing DIRT, which he continues to enhance.

DIRT logs all keystrokes on the target workstation and transmits them the next time that system is online. Because users type in their encryption pass phrases at the keyboard, which are then transmitted via DIRT, the product helps law enforcement officials decrypt documents and provides them with substantial evidence for criminal investigations. All DIRT communications are encrypted on their way back to the DIRT Control Center, protecting them in case they are intercepted by a random system administrator.

In the latest version of DIRT, the agency need not send the software as an e-mail message at all; the law enforcement agency needs only the e-mail address or the IP address of the target system. (At the very least, the variety of techniques described here should make users wary of dismissing the idea that a third party could install software without their knowledge.)

DIRT currently runs on Windows 95, 98, and NT systems and a Unix version is being developed. Only qualified law enforcement agencies can purchase DIRT; furthermore, Codex currently sells the software only to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Jones emphasizes that surreptitious surveillance tools, such as Back Orifice and keystroke logging facilities, are illegal to develop or possess in the United States, according to U.S. code 2512. These tools are illegal even if they are used by network administrators unless each end user explicitly agrees to the monitoring.

DIRT is legal because it is a law enforcement tool that can only be sold to law enforcement agencies. DIRT itself is not a threat to the average corporate network, but the knowledge that such a tool exists should make users consider whether their networks are secure. Security is clearly a relative term, and organizations ignore security issues at their own risk."

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Detailed Info & Pricing on D.I.R.T. ?

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Sale of this technology is restricted to military, government and law enforcement agencies only... For additional information we require a written request on official letterhead signed by an authorized official...

Codex Data Systems, Inc. will be happy to provide a demonstration to any authorized agency

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Codex Data Systems, Inc. 167 Route 304 Bardonia, New York 10954 USA Tel: 914-627-0011 Fax: 914-627-0211

Latest Update: Oct 19,1998 ) Copyright 1998 CodexDataSystems, Inc All Rights Reserved

-- nemo (, November 09, 1998.

Thanks for the DIRT update. The key paragraph is...

The piece below about says it all as far as "freedom of digital speech" is concerned. There isn't any. As far as "creating an aura of fear," that all depends on whether it bothers you if Bigbro listens to every keystroke you make. 

The beauty of the internet and open communications, and the ability for piecing together the truth puzzle pieces, is that there are no secrets anymore, for anyone, them or us. It goes both ways. Sort of calls for people to stand tall, clutter clear their lives, admit their only too human mistakes, past and present. Who cares if they listen or not? It may be a grand opportunity to begin a truly open dialog among people, big and small, one and all, who are facing a far bigger Y2K problem. Hopefully together.


-- Diane J. Squire (, November 09, 1998.

wow, I pretty much agree with everything Paul wrote above except this 'the media does not try to cover up stories". Just this week ABC killed an independent production on Flight 800 because of government, business and family protests. In essence, the program was to deal with evidence that the government has covered up regarding Naval guided missle exercises in the area. Stories die every day and just about every major news source is owned by a very, very small minority of individuals and corporations.

Now... on to Hardliner! You've hit a nerve!!! : )

"And, Diane, about the Mac. . . While it shares the distinction of superior design and technology with the Betamax VCR, it also suffers (unfortunately) from a software market that caters to the IBM/Microsoft model."

Hey, haven't you heard about all the new software titles coming to the Mac? C'mon! And, expect the G4 by this time next year to be humming along on desktops at about a 1000mhz. See for more info : )

Actually, I agree with your take on the sitch too Hardliner. Even the Mac stuff, although I hate to admit it. I just hope they {Apple} get their non Apple mainframe issues and manufacturing issues compliant soon!!!

Mike ======================================================

-- Michael Taylor (, November 09, 1998.

Apple & Macintoshes push my happy buttons :) As a total 'Net newbie & computer dummie, with my new iMac I have been able to leap onto the Internet and pursue my passions, including finding this Forum and learning how to prepare for surviving Y2K, with all of your expertise. I can receive eMail from multiple venues and research endlessly. I have found that the 'regular folk' who post are far more informed + interesting than the media pundits. My iMac has given me tremendous freedom of information + communication. And as soon as I come down a bit from this deliriously delighted frenzy of new triumphs, I will discipline myself to actually learn how to use the computer. Steve Jobs, who has managed to revolutionize our world for the better, be sacked and ridiculed and come out not bitter, but actually more mature, and the head of two awesome companies, is one of my heroes. I don't really care if Big Dolt Govt snoops on my eMail; I figure maybe some of this will osmosis into their noggins and maybe enlighten them. I try to conduct all aspects of my life in open view of God, and if it's good enough for Him then Big Bro will be bored to tears. Thanks to all posters who give of their knowledge; may you reap great rebounds from your generous shar

-- Leska (, November 09, 1998.

You're all missing the reason why the 'media' is not going to report anything too far out of the mainstream, at least in a serious manner.

"Tell us o wise one"

Because the 'media is owned lock stock and barrel by Big Bid'ness. Big Bid'ness will not do anything that is contrary to the bottom line. The editors know who pays the bills, and if something that Big Bid'ness does not like slips by the editor, he gets a reminder, right quick. News is a 'show'. A show about the 'real' world. That show must sell advertising. If a show reports something that makes other Big Bid'ness uncomfortable, revenue sinks. Nuff said?

-- Uncle Deedah (, November 09, 1998.


Suppose we can show Big Business how to create a win-win situation here. Ideas? There are enough luminaries out there to create their own spotlight. Lets lead the media so they have to report it!!! Remember, SHIFT HAPPENS. One day at a time.


-- Diane J. Squire (, November 10, 1998.

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