EMAILS AND A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE?

What is social and corporate responsibility?  What is a sustainable future?  Does it tie in with the electronic age?  Yes, the electronic and Internet environment is changing every day.  But where do the difficulties rest?  This sustainable future involves relationships among business, government, public and private sectors, both individuals and groups in every dimension.  Somewhere along the path there is deceit, thievery, and irresponsibility in this Age of Electronics and Internet.

Some systems and groups have made conscious choices to attempt to destroy individuals and groups through hacking and stealing through the Internet.  They act at center stage in the lives of peoples and organizations.  They may not kill; they may not start house fires; but they ring the world with both challenges to overcome and destruction in their piracy of computers, let alone cyberspace.  Internal physical heartburn is a reality for most victims.

Google had announced in January that it was the victim of a cyber-attack.  The New York Times reported today that it appeared that the password system of Google was compromised in the attack.  Such passwords protect email accounts and business applications.  The New York Times reported that the theft was triggered by “an instant message sent to a Google employee in China who was using Microsoft’s Messenger program.” 

In the past weeks, computer hackers have targeted Windows XP and Vista according to Microsoft.  A personal experience this past week revealed the turmoil in one particular southern neighborhood; not region, but neighborhood.  Several people had their computers hacked into, particularly those using Microsoft, and they were blocked from entering into their email.

Where does one start to get “help?”  Meanwhile some 500 people received emails signed by the victim, which was pulled off the Internet address; the email said that the victim was in England and needed $2800 to get back home. Such emails went out to hundreds of people.  Those who know the victim called on the telephone frantically or text messaged from abroad, “Are you alright?”

Meanwhile a professional technical guru came in to “unhitch” the computer.  No luck.  Finally after about five days with no email, someone suggested starting a new hotmail account, but no one explained how to get into the old account.  In the links between the public and private sectors, one person telephoned an FBI friend who said to contact a detective who is involved in cyberspace piracy and breaches.

This person said call your “provider.”  The provider was not the service for the hotmail account, but the provider had a telephone number for Microsoft hotmail.  What a blessing! The Microsoft operator stayed with the victim on the telephone line for an hour, helping the latter to fill out a form to prove that the victim was the owner of the line that had been hacked into.

Lo and behold, after about six more emails to the new account, the victim was informed how to go into the new account and change the “hacked into” account.  At that moment, the deputy sheriff from the area arrived, and they found the account that was being used by the hacker, whether the person or groups were in China, Nigeria, and Europe or wherever.  The actual hacker email address was there.

Emails and a sustainable future can only be successful if the public agencies follow through on these discoveries.  If the law enforcement agency does not follow through in tracing the hacker’s identity, emails’ sustainable future becomes a broken link in this world of diversity and communication.  Are we proving that electronic and Internet piracy is part of the sustainable future? 

The public and private sectors must bear responsibility in not letting consumers drown in this barrage of thievery.  Agencies must bear responsibility, whether or not their services are free, to serve the consumer.  If necessary, then charge for such services.  People would not be hacking into systems as much if they had to pay for such free email services. 

Google, for example, has partnered with the United States National Security Agency, to thwart such cyber attacks.  Will that work?  Hackers are smart, have no integrity, no decent character, educated in thievery and crime; the sustainable future for emails is not sustainable, if email service is to be free.  The “best” things in life are not always free, and we are proving this daily in the cyberspace environment.

 Caroline S. Westerhof, Ph.D.

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