(Fwd) AOL users Beware!

Kathryn Aegis (aegis@igc.apc.org)
Mon, 20 Oct 1997 23:38:12 +0000

This message is being circulated throughout the Internet, and I don't
know where it originated, although it came with attachments coded in
html. Can anyone render an opinion as to its possible veracity? Can
cookies possibly be constructed to operate in this fashion?

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

>From a former AOL employee:

I'll try and cut through the crap, and try to get to the point of this
letter. I used to work for America Online, and would like to remain
anonymous for that reason. I was laid off in early September, but I
know exactly why I was laid off, which I will now explain:

Since last December, I had been one of the many people assigned to
design AOL 4.0 for Windows (AOL 4.0 beta, codenamed Casablanca). In
the beginning, I was very proud of this task, until I found out the true
cost of it. Things were going fine until about mid-February, when me
and 2 of my colleagues started to suspect a problem, an unexplainable
'Privacy Invasion', with the new version. One of them, who is a master
programmer, copied the finished portion of the new version (Then 'Build
52'), and took it home, and we spent nearly 2 weeks of sleepless nights
examining and debugging the program, flipping it inside-out, and here is
what we found.

Unlike all previous versions of America Online, version 4.0 puts
something in your hard drive called a 'cookie'. (AOL members click <A
HREF="aol://4344:1047.g334.8411481.532897009">here</A> for a
definition). However, the cookie we found on Version 4.0 was far more
treacherous than the simple internet cookie. How would you like
somebody looking at your entire hard drive, snooping through any (yes,
any) piece of information on your hard drive. It could also read your
password and log in information and store it deep in the program code.
Well, all previous versions, whether you like it or not, have done this
to a certain extent, but only with files you downloaded. As me and my
colleagues discovered, with the new version, anytime you are signed on
to AOL, any top aol executive, any aol worker, who has been sworn to
secrecy regarding this feature, can go into your hard drive and retrieve
any piece of information that they so desire. Billing, download
records, e-mail, directories, personal documents, programs, financial
information, scanned images, etc ... Better start keeping all those
pictures on a floppy disk!

This is a totally disgusting violation of our rights, and your right to
know as well. Since this is undoubtably 'Top Secret' information that I
am revealing, my life at AOL is pretty much over. After discovering
this information, we started to inform a few other workers at America
Online, so that we could get a large enough crew to stop this from
happening to the millions of unfortunate and unsuspecting America Online
members. This was in early August. One month later, all three of us
were unemployed. We got together, and figured there was something we
had to do to let the public know.

Unemployed, with one of us going through a divorce (me) and another who
is about to undergo treatment for Cancer, our combined financial
situation is not currently enough to release any sort or article. We
attempted to create a web page on three different servers containing
in-depth information on AOL 4.0, but all three were taken down within 2
days. We were running very low on time (4.0 is released early this
winter), so we figured our last hope to reveal this madness before it
effects the people was starting something similar to a chain letter,
this letter you are reading. Please do the following, to help us expose
AOL for who they really are, and to help us and yourself recieve
personal gratification for taking a stand for our freedom:

1. Forward this letter to as many people as you can (not just friends
and family, as many as you can!)

2. Tell people who aren't on America Online in person, especially
important people (Private Investigators, Government workers, City

3. If the information about the new version isn't exposed by the time
aol is released early this winter, for your own protection, DON'T

Thank you for reading and examining this information. Me and my
colleagues hope that you will help us do the right thing in this
situation. Enjoy America Online (just kidding!).

A former AOL employee