Paul From Minneapolis

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Today's Brush With Terror

I just got the following e-mail from a place calling itself "Washington Mutual:"

Technical Services of the Bank are carrying out a planned software upgrade.
We earnestly ask you to visit the following link to start the procedure of the confirmation of customers' data.
(there follows a really, really extra-long link I'll leave out)
This instruction has been sent to all bank customers and is obligatory to follow.
Thank you for co-operating.
Customers support service.

Well, okay then, I've never heard of you with your quaint phraseology but clearly, you're my bank, so I'll just click on this link here and –

Seriously, I don't want to make anybody mad, but this is one of the worst I've ever seen.

I mean come on, al Qaeda. Do you honestly expect me not to notice "unspecified-domain, Inc." in the "from" box? Is it a purposeful spot-on impression of Alan Arkin and his panicky crew of grounded submariners in The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming? Is it? Am I sitting here picking grasshoppers out of my hair, droolin' chaw, just another of Michael Moore’s super-dumb Americans, eager to abide by any command that drifts in front of my porn-soaked inebriated infidel eyes? Is that how you see me? It is? Well no! That's not how I am at all! Man.

I thought this was so incompetent I decided to copy the message for purposes of this post. And then the joke became on me, because it was only after my casually impulsive right-click that I realized: the whole body of the message was a link. Not just the apparent link; not just the text; the whole space. Bastards.

I think I backed away in time. But it pays to remember that there are warehouses full of guys in Pakistan thinking these things up. Right? Having a good time, getting a .005 hit rate, happy with that, going to get a beer. They might even be hip to us hipsters, you and me, seeing what happens if they make a message bad on purpose and subtle-up the link. Paranoid you say? Oh my gosh. Very paranoid.