Friday, December 30, 2005

Forwarded Emails

Since I've been in Iraq, I have received an astounding number of emails alerting me to both potential viruses and supposedly vital, previously unknown information. All were false.

The first email I received told me to be on the lookout for an email about September 11. This email, the false warning told me, would contain a virus. I tried to explain why the email was a hoax when I spoke with the IT manager, who forwarded the email. Well what if the sender attached a virus afterwards? he asked. How do you know that all emails sent with that subject line will not contain a virus? I did not have a solid explanation. I repeated what I knew was true: the warning was a hoax.

Not all these emails were sent by Iraqis. The British security manager of a project I worked on a few months ago sent me an email that seems to be the combination of two urban legends. It alleged that Oliver North suggested Osama was an imminent threat years before 9/11 and that the Israelis had previously captured Mohammed Atta. I don't know what one can conclude from the security manager's willingness to trust these emails and forward them without further verification.

The latest email I received must be the most ludicrous. I am warned that if I don't forward the email to 20 people, my Yahoo! account will be shut down. I knew that the email was false and I did not need to check on its veracity, but I did anyway. What's surprising is the number of recipients who forwarded this email before it reached me. It was successfully forwarded though dozens of mailboxes.


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