Fwd: FW: Strunkenwhite virus

From: CEP7@aol.com
Date: Thu May 20 1999 - 16:58:57 EDT

I have my suspicions that the following is a hoax, but I thought I'd forward
it so the software experts can comment on it. If it's true, it could be quite
damaging to the discussions on this forum.

Charles Powell

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Subject: FW: Strunkenwhite virus
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 11:55:19 -0500
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Rebecca Levins
Environmental, Health & Safety Compliance Specialist
RSR Corporation
Dallas, Texas
(214) 583-0245

-----Original Message-----
From: SAFETY approval account [SMTP:approval@esf.uvm.edu]
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 1999 7:35 AM
Subject: Strunkenwhite virus

From: mvnaerss@sas.upenn.edu (Margaret VanNaerssen)
Subject: Strunkenwhite hoax
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 18:16:03 -0400 (EDT)

By Bob Hirschfeld
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 2, 1999

A new computer virus is spreading throughout the Internet, and it is
far more insidious than last week's Chernobyl menace. Named
Strunkenwhite after the authors of a classic guide to good writing, it
returns e-mail messages that have grammatical or spelling errors. It is
deadly accurate in its detection abilities, unlike the dubious spell
checkers that come with word processing programs.

The virus is causing something akin to panic throughout corporate
America, which has become used to the typos, misspellings, missing words
and mangled syntax so acceptable in cyberspace. The CEO of
LoseItAll.com, an Internet startup, said the virus has rendered him
helpless. "Each time I tried to send one particular e-mail this
morning, I got back this error message: 'Your dependent clause preceding
your independent clause must be set off by commas, but one must not
precede the conjunction.' I threw my laptop across the room."

A top executive at a telecommunications and long-distance company,
10-10-10-10-10-10-123, said: "This morning, the same damned e-mail kept
coming back to me with a pesky notation claiming I needed to use a
pronoun's possessive case before a gerund. With the number of e-mails I
crank out each day, who has time for proper grammar? Whoever created
this virus should have their programming fingers broken."

A broker at Begg, Barow and Steel said he couldn't return to the "bad,
old" days when he had to send paper memos in proper English. He
speculated that the hacker who created Strunkenwhite was a "disgruntled
English major who couldn't make it on a trading floor. When you're
buying and selling on margin, I don't think it's anybody's business if I
write that 'i meetinged through the morning, then cinched the deal on
the cel phone while bareling down the xway.' "

If Strunkenwhite makes e-mailing impossible, it could mean the end to a
communication revolution once hailed as a significant timesaver. A
study of 1,254 office workers in Leonia, N.J., found that e-mail
increased employees' productivity by 1.8 hours a day because they took
less time to formulate their thoughts. (The same study also found that
they lost 2.2 hours of productivity because they were e-mailing so many
jokes to their spouses, parents and stockbrokers.)

Strunkenwhite is particularly difficult to detect because it doesn't
come as an e-mail attachment (which requires the recipient to open it
before it becomes active). Instead, it is disguised within the text of
an e-mail entitled "Congratulations on your pay raise." The message asks
the recipient to "click here to find out about how your raise effects
your pension." The use of "effects" rather than the grammatically
correct "affects" appears to be an inside joke from Strunkenwhite's
mischievous creator.

The virus also has left government e-mail systems in disarray.
Officials at the Office of Management and Budget can no longer transmit
electronic versions of federal regulations because their highly
technical language seems to run afoul of Strunkenwhite's dictum that
"vigorous writing is concise." The White House speechwriting office
reported that it had received the same message, along with a caution to
avoid phrases such as "the truth is... " and "in fact...."

Home computer users also are reporting snafus, although an e-mailer who
used the word "snafu" said she had come to regret it.

The virus can have an even more devastating impact if it infects an
entire network. A cable news operation was forced to shut down its
computer system for several hours when it discovered that Strunkenwhite
had somehow infiltrated its TelePrompTer software, delaying newscasts
and leaving news anchors nearly tongue-tied as they wrestled with
proper sentence structure.

There is concern among law enforcement officials that Strunkenwhite is
a harbinger of the increasingly sophisticated methods hackers are using
to exploit the vulnerability of business's reliance on computers. "This
is one of the most complex and invasive examples of computer code we
have ever encountered. We just can't imagine what kind of devious mind
would want to tamper with e-mails to create this burden on
communications," said an FBI agent who insisted on speaking via the
telephone out of concern that trying to e-mail his comments could leave
him tied up for hours.

Meanwhile, bookstores and online booksellers reported a surge in orders
for Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style."

Alan G. Headbloom
English Training Consultants
612 Crescent Drive
Midland, MI 48640-3496 USA
517-832-3400; Fax: 832-3434

Margaret van Naerssen, mvnaerss@mail.sas.upenn.edu/ English Language
Programs & Graduate School of Education,  U. of Pennsylvania, 21 Bennett
Hall, 34th & Walnut Streets Philadelphia, Pa 19104 USA (215)898-5126,
Fax (215)898-2684

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