If the price of oil, the ambient temperature of the planet, and Donald Trump’s hair were not in and of themselves enough to worry about, our ever diligent and easily startled media is aspiring to add voicemail to the long list of things that should keep us cowering under our beds at night. The impeccable logic behind this is that people who, in general, could be classified as “way more important than you” have had their mailboxes “hacked.” Hacked, in this case, means they probably had passwords like “1111” or “1234” in what is the cellular equivalent of setting one’s computer password to “password.”
Now, just to make this abundantly clear, for those of us who have not run for public office or married a member of a significant royal family (sorry, Luxembourg), the odds that anyone cares enough about what we’re doing to “hack” our cell phones is, as they say in the scientific community, statistically insignificant.What is considerably more likely is that the term “hacked” is now being used in tech-related discussions as a substitute for “incompetence.” Thus: “My computer/phone/fax isn’t working. I was incompetent.” Is replaced with: “My computer/phone/fax isn’t working. I was hacked.” This fictitiously implies, of course, the individual in question has a level of technical ability that would allow them to do something more significant than select a ring tone from a list in under three tries.
The above being stated, it seemed somewhat surprising when public radio opted to shoulder its way to a seat on the fear-mongering bandwagon. They did so by running an hour long show on how one could prevent their voicemail from being maliciously stolen. Never mind that most of us are already taking appreciable preventive measures in the form of “not being famous” or, to put it bluntly, “not having anything in our voicemail worth hearing.”
Of course, no public radio program would be complete without an expert of some sort – thus, they recruited a security specialist who sounded like a cross between Droopy the Dog and the guy who wanted his Red Swingline back in Office Space. Now, in his defense, he sounded mildly baffled as to why they were having this discussion at all, given that the average Joe’s cell phone is not a target of opportunity to international terrorists. As a result, he tried to limit himself to offering advice to the effect of “1234 is not a strong password,” and to paraphrase, “For the love of god, don’t use the last four digits of your phone number as your voicemail password. In fact, stop using a phone entirely. You’re clearly too stupid. I’d suggest you stick to smoke signals and carrier pigeons were it not for the fact you’d probably use the former to barbecue the latter.”
Yet eventually they came, as all public radio broadcasts come, to the point in the show where they “encourage” listener participation and, as a direct consequence, cause a not inconsiderable portion of their listening audience to reconsider their views on eugenics. In today’s show, the callers could be neatly divided into three groups: sheep, goats, and Cletus.
The sheep and goats are, as one might imagine, the individuals who think they are/could be hacked and the people who claim to have done/could do the hacking respectively. There isn’t a lot to be done for the sheep, as most of them are still laboring under the assumption that, by checking the box labeled “remember my log-in,” all their personal information, including their fourth grade report card, is being beamed into the minds of the Chinese leadership. As for the goats, they’re a special lot, as one has to wonder about the sort of person who would willingly agree to broadcast their confession that they either had hacked, or were capable of hacking, the computers/cell phones/toaster ovens of the greater US. It seems a little like calling NPR, informing them you’ve set up a crack house, providing the address, and then acting confused when the fuzz shows up.
But ultimately, who cares about the herd animals when we have Cletus? While the following is certainly not a word-for-word transcription, it is mighty close – though the parenthetical commentary is an addition. Rather than attempt to define him further, we’ll just close this out by letting Cletus speak for himself:
Cletus: “Hi, my name’s Cletus from Alabamy – my then there phone was hacked recently.”
Droopy the Security Specialist: “Oh? How do you know that?”
Cletus: “Well….” (Sound of something ricocheting off a spittoon in the background) “Everyone knows the gov’ment’s hackin’ our phones all the time ‘n they record all our conversations…”
Droopy: “I’m…not sure about that.” (Translation: How’s that tinfoil hat workin’ for you, Cletus?)
Cletus: “See here… I just reformatted my phone the other week…”
(…Why? So you could upgrade to Windows 7?)
Cletus (cont.): “…’cause I was gettin’ some weird messages. And, you know, since I’m an IT guy…”
(Presumably for his Farmall tractor.)
Public Radio Host: “Let’s… Let’s have Droopy weigh in here.” (Frantic gestures to cut Cletus off.)
Droopy: “…Sure…” (Frantic gestures to host, roughly translating to, “He’s a !@#$in’ wingnut. What do you expect me to say?”)
Public Radio Host: “On second thought. Let’s break for news…” (And a hit from Droopy’s flask.)