Saturday, October 7, 2023

A Visit from the Secret Service

Recently, I reconnected with a high school buddy and subscribed to his Substack, Lou's Joint. His posts resonate with me on a number of levels and, in some cases, bring back memories. In his latest posts, he tells us of his visit from two FBI agents and how he fell for the Nigerian Scam back in the 90s.

I don't remember the exact date, but around the same time Lou was talking to FBI agents, I was face-to-face with two Secret Service agents. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

It was a Monday morning when I walked into the school office to sign in, and the secretary told me that the Superintendent wanted to see me right away. I headed up to the office, and when I walked in, I saw two imposing men dressed in black.

They told me that over the weekend, someone had threatened the life of President Clinton, and they had traced the computer back to our school.

I said something like, "Oh shit! I think I know where that came from." I went on to tell them about the lesson I had given the previous Friday:

"I stood in front of my class holding my keys, my wallet, and my cell phone, and I told the class I would give them all of those things before I would give them my email password. When they questioned why, I told them that if you give someone your password, they can have their lives destroyed."

"No way!" they said.

I went on to say, "I can destroy your lives with just two words." Again, they said, "No way! How?"

I just said, "All I have to do is use your email account, address it to the White House, and say, 'You're dead!' How long do you think it would be before the Secret Service was at your door?" Well, I guess I got the answer about how long it would take.

I was finding it hard to believe that one of my students would be so stupid as to do that, because they already knew about IP address tracing and the lack of anonymity online.

As it turned out, it wasn't a two-word message via email. Someone had come to the White House website where you could leave a message for the President. In the message, they ranted and threatened the life of the President, and left their email address. The email address they left was to a student in a neighboring high school, but the IP address showed it came from our school.

We went to the computer logs and traced it back to a specific computer. Apparently, two boys were enamored of the same girl, and the boy from our school wrote the message and left his rival's name. Much to my relief, it was not my lesson and not my student.

The Secret Service didn't drag him out in cuffs and left the discipline up to the school. As they left, one of the agents turned to me as he put on his aviator sunglasses and said, "Nice lesson." (Just kidding about the aviator sunglasses.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

An Open Letter to Facebook Administrators in the Raymond Area

Dear Facebook Group Administrators and Members,

I am penning this open letter, which I am sharing on only here on the Raymond, New Hampshire Residents group, to address a matter of growing concern. As this is a private group, Facebook's policies prevent direct sharing of this post. However, I encourage you to share this link in any other local groups you are part of.
I am aware that this message may come across as boastful or arrogant, but I assure you, it is not my intention. I am writing this out of necessity, not choice.
My journey in the online world began before the term "online" was commonplace, and possibly even before some of you were born. Since 1983, I have been involved in online community building and administration, a part of my professional life in education. I am confident that my experience in online administration surpasses most.
If you've been in this field as long as I have, you'll likely resonate with my observations. If you're relatively new to forum administration, please don't take my words as a personal critique.
You may have noticed an increase in fake accounts attempting to join your group, a surge in scams being posted, and a rise in the number of posts and users you've had to deny or ban. If these trends have escaped your notice, it's crucial to understand that you may be inadvertently doing a disservice to your users.
Starting a Facebook page or group is easy, but managing it becomes increasingly challenging as the content grows. This increased responsibility includes protecting your members from scammers and ensuring their online safety.
Regrettably, I've found that individuals and scams I've banned from our group are still active in other local groups. As administrators, we are the first line of defense for our users, many of whom lack the necessary online survival skills.
It's our duty to stay abreast of technological advancements and scammer tactics. If you're wondering why scams have become more prevalent, the answer lies in two letters: AI.
An old Arab proverb states:
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, is a fool—shun him; he who knows not, and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him; he who knows, and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him; he who knows, and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him.
In the context of Facebook administration, consider which description fits you best. If you believe you're fully informed about AI, you may need to revisit the first line. Artificial intelligence has empowered internet scammers in the same way email once did for Nigerian Princes. If this analogy confuses you, it's time to enhance your skills.
Over the past week, I've created numerous screen capture videos documenting my moderation activities on Raymond, New Hampshire Residents. Before investing time in editing these into a formal presentation, I want to gauge if it would be beneficial.
I propose a series of Zoom conferences with Facebook administrators from Raymond and nearby towns. While I bring considerable experience to the table, I am certain there is much I can learn from you. As a lifelong learner, I am acutely aware that the more I learn, the more I realize there is yet to know. I am eager to collaborate with you for the betterment of our community.
If you're interested, please send me a Facebook PM expressing your interest. If we're not already connected on Facebook, include the name of the group you administer, as I will need to verify your identity before responding and granting Messenger access.
Remember, a great leader doesn't say, "Follow me." Instead, they say, "Show me where you want to go, and I will help you get there." I don't seek followers, but I believe we can navigate this journey together.
Art Wolinsky 
Co-admin, Raymond, New Hampshire Residents