This article was originally published on Humorality, on March 8, 2010.
Public asked to reread older spam messages until problem resolved
A computer failure at one of the largest unsolicited bulk email agencies has exposed confidential information that may seriously damage the reputation of the email spam industry. The breach occurred last Thursday at the computer center for It’s Just Email, Inc., when an employee double-clicked on an attachment that contained a malicious virus. Within minutes, the virus had infected all of the company’s computers, and started sending random pieces of company documents out to most of the email addresses in its system.
“We’ve already received hundreds of complaints from people we’ve never heard of getting emails with some of our internal documents attached,” said John Basmati, president of the company. “It’s an email nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, although I’d be OK inflicting it on millions of nameless computer users.”
“You come to expect a certain amount of privacy and security in your email systems,” said Jennifer Cooper, the company’s chief technology officer. “Then something like this happens and you suddenly lose faith in the medium. An exposure of this magnitude is huge, on the order of having dozens of useless emails coming to every inbox in the world every day for years. Just think about that for a minute. Now you know the nightmare I’m living.”
The extent of the security breach is still being determined, but one major news outlet has posted a portion of a document it received last night from It’s Just Email.
“I am Mr. Mark David, sexy auditor of Cheap Viagra Prescriptions at the International Bank of Teeth Whitening. I have important need for help to ask so that you can receive a portion of $12 MILLION that dentist don’t want you to know about. I have contacted you because of your honest, and you will never let down to contact me with account number 2340397. 85% will not copy and paste this, will you? DO NOT DELETE THIS or your lover will break up with you by midnight.”
Joyce Everheart of Scottsdale, a female in the key 18-to-34 age advertising demographic, received one of the misdirected messages. “I thought the email looked a little strange. It included all kinds of too-good-to-be-true offers and a mysterious attachment, but there was no information on where to send my credit card numbers, my passwords, or a for-no-logical-reason $500 advance fee. It was scary to think that I might just be able to delete it without first being duped. So I forwarded it to all of my Facebook friends and everyone in my email program just in case.”
The crashed spam server also had a noticeable impact on other Internet sites normally dependent on high levels of message content. Social networking favorite Twitter saw a dramatic decrease in its tweet volume within an hour of the spam outage. “We were like, ‘Where’d all the fake SEO marketing and health care experts go?'” said Biz Stone, Creative Director for the company. “The spam was just gone. It’s actually a pretty big problem since all we have to depend on now is Ashton Kutcher.”
Mr. Basmati thinks it might be weeks before their systems fully recover from the damage. “It’s crazy. We can’t even send out a single email, at least not ones with meaningful content.” But he is optimistic for his company and the future of email marketing, and hopes that the public will assist them. “We are asking everyone to send us their usernames and passwords for any system that they communicate with by email. We promise to ensure the privacy of these accounts, and will do everything we can to restore your trust in us. You have firstname.lastname@example.org’s word on it.”