[mailhist-discuss] Question #2 for my story

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Tue Mar 24 08:59:45 PDT 2015

AOL seems the most plausible mail provider for an ordinary person at that
time. Compuserve would be a similar alternative. Both were available in
Canada. AOL integrated email and other functions into a special client
program installed on the computer being used to access the service.

"Hacking into" an account of a spouse, presumably living in the same house,
would involve no more than determining her password. With physical access to
the computer this could be done by hiding a nanny cam or by installing a key
logger. Neither needs particular skill, but as the husband could let a
hacker into the house that's trivial.

Armed with the password, reading the wife's email would be easy. Hiding
incoming messages from one sender might be harder. A question to research
would be whether either AOL or Compuserv offered scripts or filters to
process incoming mail. Compuserv was more technologically savvy, so might be
more likely to offer this. Spam was not yet an issue, especially as users of
these services paid for their connection time, with the result that spam
filters were unknown.

If you assume enormously well-developed coding skills of the hacker, the AOL
client software could be patched to hide messages from a particular account.

Best wishes,

Tom Haigh

-----Original Message-----
From: mailhist-discuss-bounces at emailhistory.org
[mailto:mailhist-discuss-bounces at emailhistory.org] On Behalf Of Suzanne
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2015 9:39 PM
To: Linda Hess
Cc: mailhist-discuss at emailhistory.org
Subject: Re: [mailhist-discuss] Question #2 for my story

Mail programs, such as Eudora, at the time had a range of capabilities.  
I am pretty sure Eudora, even back then, allowed one to set filters and
direct mail to various other folders.  Since Trash was just another one of
those folders, it likely was possible to filter all incoming mail and direct
email with a specific string in the "From" line into Trash, or some other
obscure folder set by someone with access to the account and malicious
intent.  In my mother's case, since I set up her mail system for her and
knew her passwords, I could have easily set up a filter to send all mail
from a particular person to another folder besides Inbox.  
Since she was not a particularly accomplished mail user, it  would have
worked fairly well, she would not have been likely to find the other folder,
or check the Trash folder.  Although outgoing mail to the person  would go
through, nothing would ever come back, as long as they did not change their
mail address.

As Jack Haverty mentioned, systems in those days were not always well
protected.  In the case of the Texas ISP, he was not really interested in
computers or mail.  I believe he had answered an ad on how to make money as
an ISP and bought a package of hardware and software to get started.  Any
system passwords were probably left as they were rather than being reset.
That in itself would allow for some more possibilities for access.


On 3/22/15 2:11 PM, Linda Hess wrote:
> Suzanne's mention of her mother using Eudora via a local ISP who sold 
> pool chemicals out of the same shed as the modem racks has actually 
> given me a direction. Thank you!
> My first Internet access was dial-up to my employer's server. 
> Employees were encouraged to do that in 1994 until about 1996 at my 
> company. Employee use skyrocketed and the employer pulled back on 
> serving as an ISP. Fair enough.
> My next access was AOL. I had a local access number, but there were 
> the monthly fees that were actually higher than an independent ISP, 
> although AOL fees did drop dramatically.
> AOL was fairly clunky to use, though, and I did find a local ISP for a 
> reasonable fee (still dial-up!) in 1996. It's funny - I lived those 
> early days but didn't think of documenting them for later reference.
> So I appreciate all of the input. It's a trip down memory lane for me.
> I suspect it would have been easier to hack a local ISP's email 
> system, although do let me know if I'm wrong about that! Suzanne makes 
> a valid point that in a husband-wife scenario, the account could be 
> manipulated on-site, but that would take constant vigilance and no 
> guarantee of intercepting the offending email.
> You can all rest assured that I'm not going to try to tackle the 
> technical details of how a hack would happen.
> And I probably should mention that the "other person" lives in Canada, 
> so there are International implications. Did Canada have AOL at the 
> time? I don't remember. So the independent ISP is probably the way to go.
> I really appreciate the time you all have put into helping me with 
> this point.
> Thanks,
> Linda

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