The West’s Wild Internet

Kenneth J. McCormick

In the old days, in what has become known as the Wild West, there were people who would try and sell you ‘medicine’ that could not only cure any ailment you had, and it could also be used as paint remover, furniture polish and clear your pipes. They would put on a little show first and this was the medicine show. After the show was finished they would hawk the bottles of ‘medicine’ to the audience. There were also other scams that were perpetrated upon the uneducated and not so uneducated settlers like selling them phony gold mines. The sellers would go out and toss a few gold nuggets around the mine for the unsuspecting prospective buyers to see. This was called salting the mine. Then there was the less sophisticated approach of getting a miner drunk and just stealing any gold he had. The law was hard to find and many places had no law at all.

Boy its a lucky thing that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen any more and we have laws to protect us. But is this really true? I am afraid not, not all of it anyway. Welcome to the Wild Internet. There are so many scams out there that we would have to classify them by type. Here are a few types:

1. Electronic Bunko
2. Invasion
3. Electronic Deception
4. Destruction

Electronic Bunko is pretty simple. You get an email that states that the author of the mail was given your name as someone that can be trusted. It goes on to say that he is either a member of a royal family of some country, or a cabinet member, or a person in high authority of some institution. He says that someone, usually a deposed ruler has money in off shore banks. The amount is usually stated as something like $20,000,000 or so. He has a problem and that is he is being watched and can’t withdraw the money. But since your name was given to him as an honest person, if you withdraw the funds, you either get to keep 1/3 rd or 1/2. As the scheme progresses they will need some sort of good faith money but they tell you not to worry because they will hold it for you. I hate to say this but you wonder how any person can fall for such bull? Apparently this scam must work because they send out millions of these emails and I am sure that they wouldn’t waste their time if some people weren’t biting. Another of these scams looks a little more legit at first. They offer to buy something you are selling and tell you that they have an agent in London and the items will be exported to Nigeria. So far so good. The next thing that happens is they tell you that they are owed money by someone else and he is going to pay the bill for them with a check but it will be for the amount they are owed. This amount is always much more than the purchase price. They go on to say that they know you are honest and will send them the change and you don’t have to wait for the check to clear because it is good. If you are greedy and don’t send the change but send the merchandise they don’t care because the check is a forgery. They are hoping that is exactly what you do rather than wait for the check to clear.

Invasion is a little more technical. I am sure that everyone has heard of computer viruses. A program is written and attached to some email or download or is even sent to your computer from some website you visited. It hides itself somewhere on one of your hard drives and just watches everything you type. Unfortunately for you this includes passwords, addresses and just about anything else. That this wouldn’t do anyone much good except for the other thing it does. It sends the information, periodically, back over the internet to the creator of the malicious program.He even gets all the names and addresses of your friend and contacts because this program probably reads you email lists also.

Electronic Deception. There are at least two kinds of electronic deception that come to my mind. They are both dangerous but the most dangerous of the two is webroot. A program goes onto your computer and then hides itself. It intercepts all outgoing data and if it sees that its size or name is going to be listed, it hides this info so that you can’t tell it is there. It can’t be detected by anti virus programs or any other detection software yet, except for a very special program available from Microsoft called Root Kit Revealer which checks every storage device on your computer or by the Blacklight Rootkit Eliminator which looks in the directories that it thinks that it is most likely to be in. The program has hundreds of phony links to counterfeit sites that look just like the real thing. If you bank online for example, you will be sent to a site that looks exactly like your bank site and once you type in your id and password, you are dead. Your bank account is emptied almost immediately. Even if your bank has safeguards to prove its the legitimate site, they usually show after you type in your info and then its too late. This is so bad, it could end all electronic transactions. Its sad really, we now have the chance for convenience that was not even dreamed of a few years ago but criminals all over the world seem to be operating with impunity on the wild internet. The second deception involves email. You are sent an email that states that you have had some transaction on a site like PayPal or a banking site. You think you will outsmart these guys if it is a fraud so you open your browser, type in the address of PayPal or the bank in question, sign on and you see that the info you were given wasn’t true. You feel really good. What you don’t realize is that you did exactly what was expected of you. The email had a small program attached that read the address you typed into the browser then read your id and password and sent them back to the author. Cleaned out again!

Both of these programs get on your computer in various ways. Email, Websites, Downloads etc. So not only are these creeps ruining your ability to conduct your financial affairs online but they are making you afraid to go to websites that you don’t know, thus ruining your enjoyment of the web.

Destruction. This really makes no sense to me because there is no monetary gain involved. This is the passing of destructive viruses around the interned for the purpose of outdoing some other virus author and destroying all the data on your machine. I myself get attacked about 2-3 times a week and if it wasn’t for my good virus protection I would be forever reformatting my hard drives. Most attacks are email attacks but they certainly are not limited to that. Some of the viruses contain juvenile messages that my virus is more powerful than yours or some such message. This kind of program has been known to cause havoc and tremendous expense to many companies, not to mention the heartache caused to private citizens.

From the perspective of the private person it seems that nothing is being done about the most visible scams. They have been coming in emails for years now. I am referring to what I labeled as Electronic Bunko. Even the messages haven’t changed much in that time. I wonder if anyone in the government, either on the highest level or in law enforcement even cares? They might, but no one has shown that they do yet. If the easy stuff is running wild how can we expect anything to be done about the more complicated issues of Electronic Deception or Destruction?

Yes folks the Wild West still lives, only now it is known as the West’s Wild Internet and instead of duping one person at a time, thousands of people are being ruined at once with malevolent software applications.

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Ken is the webmaster of Http://
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