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Computer viruses thrive on stupidity

May 5, 2000

It wasn't love that sent an e-mail virus rocketing around the world at cyberspace lightspeed this week.

It was old-fashioned, low-tech stupidity.

We got about 200 or so of the "I Love You" e-mail viruses in our in-box on Thursday, which means about 200 people who have our names in their Microsoft Outlook address books were stupid enough to open the Visual Basic Script that held the virus.

According to most news reports, they weren't alone. Millions of computer users worldwide blindly clicked on the attachment and multiplied the problems hundredfold.

That's the problem with technology. No matter how advanced it may be, it only takes a nanosecond of human stupidity to bring it down.

You can send warnings out until the cows come home, but somebody will still log on to their e-mail and start clicking away without taking the necessary half-second to stop, take a closer look, and think: "Just what the hell am I doing here?"

Former Congressman Fred Grandy was one of those idiots. Grandy now runs Goodwill Industries. He walked into his office on Thursday, pulled up his e-mail and clicked on the "I Love You" e-mail attachment, even though his in-box also contained a warning from his computer folks.

Zap. The virus went out to more than a hundred of the nation's top CEOs, courtesy of the man whose greatest claim to fame is playing a character named "Gopher" on TV's old "Love Boat" series.

"I felt like an idiot," Grandy told a reporter. Well, at least he's honest about that.

Which brings up an interesting question. Why is it that people who may have all the smarts in the world turn into absolute morons once they sit down in front of a computer?

Every day, we get e-mails from people passing on a phony press release about the "Congressional plan to tax Internet e-mail." The release talks about a House bill 602p sponsored by a Congressman Tony Schnell.

It doesn't take a membership in Mensa to bop over to and check to see if there is a Congressman named Tony Schnell or a bill 602p. Those who click over easily discover no such Congressman or House bill exists (in fact, that ain't the way House bills are numbered).

But instead, most people just click the "forward" button on their e-mail and send this piece of lunacy to everyone in God's known universe just to show how incredibly moronic they can be.

And don't forget the e-mail that claims Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Case of America On-line will pay you to use their browser. We got that proof of idiocy from CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies, which may explain why the stock market is in such disarray.

It's time people realized that a computer on their desk is not a license to stop thinking or an excuse to abandon common sense. A computer doesn't make you smarter, but recent events prove it sure can make you look a lot more stupid.

So stop believing the machine can think for you.

It can't.

Try using your brain before clicking on your mouse.

Who knows? It might start a fad.

(Doug Thompson is the founder of Capitol Hill Blue. The Rant appears on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays or whenever the mood suits him)

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