April 21, 2008

Money in the internet age.

The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. - Albert Einstein

After hearing about a recent horrible breach of privacy, that leaked the full information of every felon (for any crime) in the state of Oklahoma. So if you were convicted of a "NON-VIOLENT - ALCOHOL RELATED" crime or a "WEAPONS: EXPLOSIVES" crime all your personal information is now out there. This was caused by some horribly trivial to break design practices by whoever made the site. As the linked DailyWTF article points out protecting from this sort of thing is covered chapter 1 in sql for dummies. (or should be)

Where was I? Oh yea, after hearing about that. I did what I was asked not to do in the comments. I googled for the phrase "allinurl: SELECT FROM WHERE" and jumped ahead about 50 pages of results. There I found an ancient install of phpmyadmin, it's a database management tool. It had no password and gave full access to the forum's database on a "professionals education site". I noticed the url of the phpmyadmin site in the main admin's signature. At the time I figured it was odd but didn't consider someone had been there before me and did it to flaunt the exploit. Everything, all the emails, the md5ed passwords (no salt) and every post, private message, etc was accessible, and all I had to do was click a link in google.

I backed out of the site, cleared my history and let it be. I didn't tell anyone at the site about the problem. I'm half afraid of the "You hacked our site!" response, even though I didn't do anything. But more so, the site set off my "skeevdar" and made a lot of lies on it's home page (mostly about member count, it was inflated 1000 times) and any unaccredited site that sells information to uninformed people who don't know they shouldn't be paying for basic information makes me feel.. off. I'm down with that sort of thing. I had a client once who wanted me to manage his "ESTORE" and get it on "top google". Most of his products were herbal supplements, bulk dvd packs (like 50 in 1 horror movies), and ebooks on how to do things like apply for green cards, and get a construction permit for your house all in NYC. These were about 5-10 dollars and were one or two paragraphs with outdated phone numbers. For those who need that information for nyc, I suggest 311. I dropped that guy as quickly as I could.

So what to do next? An evil though accrued to me. I had access to the emails of 1,500 stupid "professionals" who have at least a little money to burn. That had to be worth something right? I didn't want the money but I know people do this kind of thing all the time. It can't be that hard to find someone willing to pay for the emails. I hit up craigslist and google, looking to buy emails. They call the whole things direct marketing. I figured the person could pay me by donating the going rate to one of my favorite webcomic artists. I don't know how to launder money on the net (yet). I figured it would be around $20 bucks. I thought maybe less because I don't have a reputation or any other way to prove the source of the emails.

I found some websites who claim to get emails "from varied sources" and even found a site where I could sell them. The whole thing was on the up and up too, so it seamed. I let the (mostly) thought experiment end at that point. I don't even know the name of the website anymore. I wanted to know how easy it would be to get in this business, and unfortunately, it's not hard, but there's a catch.

A moral catch. If you want to believe in that. Exploring this gave me the same feeling that my short lived SEO crackdown360.com gave me. (which godaddy is gladly showing ads on until it expires) Which is something undignified. I didn't have a good way to express that until I read Einstein's quote at the top of this post.

I think it's good to have dignity in our work and in our pleasure. I'm not saying to follow someone else's ideas on the mater. You have to decide what you think is right and respectable. But if you follow that, at least Einstein thinks you'll find happiness.

PS And as long as I follow that, I wont send you spam.

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