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Elsa Poynter

Author's details

Name: Elsa Poynter
Date registered: February 17, 2013
URL: http://dualcreativity.tumblr.com

Latest posts

  1. Attack of the Zombie (email spam)–part one of a two-part series — January 27, 2011
  2. Comfort food is more than just food — January 28, 2010

Author's posts listings

Jan 27

Attack of the Zombie (email spam)–part one of a two-part series

“I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.”?– Isaac Asimov

If a Zombie attacks your email account, as one did to mine recently, don’t despair and don’t give up on computers.

I look at it as an adventure in living my own personal bad B-movie about zombies, scary but funny.

The first step is to act fast, change your password, and be glad you have email friends who will let you know right away that your account has been spammed.

Incidentally, I am not speaking of canned meat made largely from pork when I speak of spam. No, I am talking about unwanted email sent out in bulk purportedly from one’s own personal email address.

The attack of the Zombie.

James Clark who writes for Yahoo’s contributor network explains a Zombie email attack: “They are called zombie because they stay dormant until activated by a signal over an internet connection. Once activated they use your computer to send out junk email. They try to collect credit card information or other private data by ‘phishing’.”

Some of these attacks are true viruses that send their tentacles deep into your system.

Other attacks, such as what happened to me, are not viruses at all and work through an email server to steal one’s email address book. When I researched email Zombies, I found that they often attack free accounts such as Yahoo, Gmail, Hot Mail, GMX, Zoho, AIM, GMX and a host of others.

That is exactly what happened to my free email account almost two weeks ago.

It was not pretty, but I corrected it in less than an hour after I received a 5:30 a.m. phone call from a friend alerting me to the ‘phishing’ email she received, supposedly from me.

However, the repercussions of this action lasted for days, although I am happy to report that all is well for now in my cyberworld.

That is, until it happens again.

Experts say that if you have an email account, any email account, it is only a matter of “when” not “if” this will happen to you.

Do not panic, there is life after a Zombie attack, but you may need to seek professional help right away.

“Computer viruses are a lot like children—the longer they’re left alone, the more trouble they can get into,” says Julie Marto, ‘Computer Mom’ in the Medfield Press, Medfield, MA. “It’s like leaving your 16-year-old home alone,” she adds. “One day is fine overnight is okay but left alone for a week, there’s going to be a mess.”

Marto is a stay-at-home Mom who started a computer business in her home to train customers in software proficiency. Today, her business has changed so much that nearly all she does is virus cleanup, and she does that within 24 hours of an attack if at all possible.

Removing viruses and other bugs from computers has become a big business indeed.

Even bigger is the business of the spammers themselves. Spamming is now a gigantic operation, the business of organized cyber crime.

Dear readers, please erase your visual images of spammers right now. Those no longer apply. You know what you are thinking—the mental picture of a nerdy teen spammer or a 40-year-old guy who sits in his underwear drinking beer in his parents’ basement.

At first when one’s email is spammed, one wants to track the perpetrator down immediately and turn him or her over to the proper authorities. Not likely, not possible.

One is fighting, instead, a giant Internet Zombie network not a crazed spammer in someone’s basement.

When I researched Internet Zombie networks, I found that they are sometimes referred to as “botnets”, a collection of software robots that run by themselves and automatically.

However there are most certainly people at the helm of these anonymous underground networks. They are called “bot herders” who rent the services of the botnet out to third parties to send out spam attack messages and requests for credit card information.

Does this seem confusing? It is, but I learned how to understand it, somewhat, and to survive it, for the time being. There are ironclad do’s and don’ts to follow.

Next week in Part II, I will tell you about my harrowing but funny experience with Zombies, botnets, bot herders and phishermen, my own real-life bad B-movie.

I am just hoping it does not turn out to be the sequel “Return of the Zombie”.

Jan 28

Comfort food is more than just food

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. –Sheila Graham, columnist and author

Last January, I wrote my column about comfort food. This January, comfort food is all I am thinking about once again. I remember foods my mother and grandmother made, and that is reason enough to want them.

Cookbook author Molly Wizenberg explains, better than I, why we want comfort foods from our past.

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else; who we are, who we have been and who we want to be (From “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009”).

I am not the only one thinking about comfort food. Just this week in fact, some friends invited us to a “comfort food dinner”, and we jumped at the chance. What a great idea, I thought. It is miserably cold outside, the skies are gray, and we are moping around the house with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder—lack of sunshine). What could be better than comfort food to make us feel better.

Our hosts served a dinner menu that turned out to be exactly what I used to eat when I was a child. Food from the 50s and 60s, and I was in heaven or at the very least in time warp. Our hosts said that they think food is not about impressing people but more about making them feel comfortable, and that is exactly what happened.

Their menu from the past:
Old-fashioned pork roast, just like my grandma’s. Baked apples served on the side, cooked with cinnamon and Red Hots candy, just like they served decades ago at my elementary school cafeteria. Baked macaroni and cheese, all crusty on the top and sides that tasted exactly like my aunt’s. Warm cherry pie with the crumbly top, same as Mom used to make.

What can one do after a meal like that but sit down in an easy chair and sigh.

And dream about walking home from school on Monday (bread baking day) and smelling the waft of my grandmother’s baked bread and cinnamon rolls from as far away as the street corner. I long for my mom’s hot tapioca pudding whipped fluffy with egg whites that she made for Sunday dinner, and my dad’s unique cornbread-sausage stuffing recipe he made on Thanksgiving Day.

“Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort,” said Norman Kolpas, cookbook author and editor.

In a harsh winter and in an unsure world, comfort me with food any old day.