IT pilot fish receives a misaddressed email that's not just the usual spam or phishing attack -- this one is more than a little disturbing.

"My personal domain is configured so that email for any 'user' that doesn't actually exist will go into a special account," says fish. "As a result, I get some interesting misaddressed emails. Most of the time I ignore them; sometimes I respond to the senders noting their mistake.

"But this email was quite shocking -- it contain an animated GIF cartoon sent from someone at one bank to a friend at a different bank, a pornographic version of a Disney cartoon that, if it contained real actors, would certainly qualify as illegal."

Fish knows the cartoon doesn't involve any actual underage actors, but he isn't taking any chances -- to protect himself, he notifies authorities and both banks of what's in the email.

And in short order fish gets a call from the CIO at the bank where the intended recipient works. "How are you getting our email?" he demands.

Fish explains that it was addressed to his domain, which is similar to the bank's domain name.

"Then why did you open it?" the obviously annoyed CIO asks.

Fish begins explaining how his mail server is configured, but it quickly becomes clear the CIO doesn't really understand. So fish tries again with a comparison to paper mail: I don't look at the name in the address window on mail that gets dropped off by the postal carrier, he tells the CIO. It's only after I open it that I realize something isn't intended for me.

CIO still seems skeptical, so fish suggests that he have his own mail admins look at the email header trail to see how it got to fish. And fish emphasizes that he didn't steal the bank's email -- the sender at the other bank typed the email address incorrectly.

"He then wanted to know why I reported the email. He didn't think the GIF was any big deal," fish says. "I told him I wasn't taking that risk, because of what the animation showed. I chastised him for being more concerned about my reading email with the wrong user name than about the contents of that email. I also reminded him that my domain predates his domain and even the existence of his bank.

"I never heard back from him."

Sharky still wants to hear from you, though. Send me your true tales of IT life at You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Get your daily dose of out-takes from the IT Theater of the Absurd delivered directly to your Inbox. Subscribe now to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

The march toward exascale computers
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies