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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Malice and malware

The big Jane Austen news this week: the evil, soulless folks who get their jollies – and their profits – by infecting your computer with malware may be Janeites!

Well, probably not, but it was bizarrely fascinating to learn, via the midyear security report of tech giant Cisco Systems, that hackers have started pasting text from Sense and Sensibility on those dangerous web pages to which their spam emails try to lure us.

“Antivirus and other security solutions are more likely to categorize these pages as legitimate after ‘reading’ such text,” Cisco explains. And users who foolishly click on the email links and encounter the Austen text may be less suspicious than they ought to be, the report speculates, allowing the hackers more time to infect target computers.

(Although the example Cisco reproduces on page 13 of its report really ought to make a true Janeite suspicious – the lines of text are non-consecutive and apparently randomly selected from at least eleven different chapters of the novel, and they’re attributed to one “jane austin.”)

It’s not clear why S&S was chosen – what, the hackers don’t like Emma? – but there is a certain poetic justice to Cisco’s role in exposing this particular scam. As readers of Among the Janeites will recall, Sandy Lerner, the dedicated Janeite who founded the Chawton House Library, made her millions by co-founding Cisco.


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