Defensive Measures

The internet is rife with assholes. If you are reading this, you’re online so you’ve likely had some experience with them. Perhaps you’re an asshole yourself. Even if you say you are not one, there is probably someone out there who disagrees with you.

Internet assholes come in a variety of forms. There are trolls, creepers, bigots, whiners, and those mouth breathers who type in all caps. I have nothing against any of these people because none of them are trying to fuck up my blog.

The first miscreants of the fuck-up-the-blog sort arrived on my radar roughly a decade ago, back when Poison Spur ran under Movable Type. I started getting inundated with spam comments. There were too many to approve manually so I ended up turning off comments entirely.

When I switched to WordPress, I installed a pretty decent anti-spam plugin so that little problem got solved. It costs me a few bucks a month, but it’s worth it. With the spam filter in place, all the comments advertising car insurance, Russian brides, and enhanced dingaling girth are redirected unpublished to an asshole folder that I can empty with a single mouse click.

For a while, I thought I was fully protected from digital interlopers. Then I saw all the login attempts in my web-traffic daily summary. There was either a dramatic increase or I was just paying closer attention. In any event, there were now thousands of them in a single day.

Judging from the lack of “PWND BY R@D H@CKR M@F1@!!!” or the like on the site, I’m guessing the brute-force attacks had thus far been unsuccessful (not having “password” as your password can really pay off). I was still worried someone might get in eventually so I looked around and found a nice little plugin that blocks requests from IP addresses after a number of failed login attempts. This thwarts the script kiddies and I suppose me as well if I decide to blog while I’m really drunk.

I have a good friend who also uses WordPress so I told her about the plugin. She thanked me and expressed some puzzlement as to what would possess people to be such malicious swine. She is no fool. She knows there are people like this in the world. She just doesn’t grasp the appeal of their bullshit. Rationally, I’m in full agreement with her because there really is nothing to be gained from it.

Unless there is.

I remember something that happened when I was in college. It was one of my two senior years, probably the last one. I had been talked into pursuing a career in advertising by my father, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart wasn’t in much at that point. All I wanted to do was graduate and make a shitload of money doing something I cared about as little as I cared about school. Advertising seemed as good a something as anything.

Spoiler alert: Graduation happened. The career in advertising did not.

Anyway, there was a statistics and marketing class I took (and failed because studying conflicted with my drinking). One of the assignments involved SPSS, the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. I can’t remember exactly what I was supposed to do with SPSS, a bunch of shit probably, but it was one of the first times I ever had to use a computer. I recall I had to input something that interacted with a data file and produce a result that might persuade the professor to not give me an F.

I couldn’t get whatever I was doing to work so I just typed in whatever vulgarities came to mind and hit submit. I’m sure the words “rectal phlegm” figured prominently because that was my catchphrase at the time. SPSS apparently didn’t dig what I had to say and an error message about a “total memory dump” appeared on the screen. I didn’t know what those words meant, but I liked them because they sounded like I had seriously fucked shit up.

Looking around the computer lab, this was evidently not the case. Other students kept working away, unaffected by my efforts. This would not do. I left the lab, flagged down one of my frat brothers who knew more about computers than I did, and asked him the command to erase the data file. After he told me, I returned to the computer lab and did the deed.

This produced the reaction I wanted. They were all aflutter, wondering what the hell just happened. Lab techs moved in to sort out the mess, but they had no idea what was going on either. My bad day that was full of frustration was now felt by everyone in the room. I took a few moments to enjoy my handiwork before I gathered my things and left.

So yeah, I understand the appeal of causing senseless damage. I may have lacked the technical savvy of today’s script kiddies, but my 22 year old self was their kindred spirit.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to let them break into my site.