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Sense and Nonsense: Hacker's work is done in wee, small hours of morning

March 4, 2013

by Lynda Hollenbeck

If any of you received a weird email from me about a week ago, please forgive me. I am the innocent.
To explain: I was the victim of a hacking incident.
If I were smarter and more technically savvy, I might understand what really happened. And, more importantly, I might understand how and why.
As things stand, with the tiny measure of technology I possess, this means I'll never get these answers unless the perpetrator confesses either to me or someone else who feels duty-bound to enlighten me. I won't hold my breath.
I will say that the hacker was certainly thorough. I received responses from California to New York and many points in between. I don't think any were sent to a foreign country, but I'm not sure on that.
Ginger English provided the best reply:
"Lynda, I received this yesterday and thought you probably didn't send it, I think someone has hacked your email account. When I looked at the time of day it was sent, that gave me a clue - 2:30 A.M. to advertise raspberry pills!!?? "
From her comments and those of another recipient, it appears that the email was promoting raspberry pills for weight loss. Actually, I didn't know there was such a thing. I'm at least grateful it's something that can be addressed in mixed company.
But I will make one thing clear in case there should be a recurrence of such activity: Unless I'm in the middle of a crisis, I'm not going to be facing my computer at that time of day. So any email sent at that hour is coming from Pseudo Lynda, not the real thing.
Just for the record, I'll note that the word "hack" in regard to such activity is relatively new to my vocabulary.
When I was a shy kid — and I really was, though my grown-up children never will believe it — I embarrassed easily. I remember my mother describing my state as "hacked."
But back to the circulating email. In some Internet research, I learned that there's a current theory a component found in raspberries possibly can help someone lose weight.
My search revealed a theory that raspberry ketone is an aromatic compound found in red raspberries. It's extracted and used in perfumes and cosmetics, and it's also used as a flavoring agent in some fruit-flavored foods. Apparently it's now being touted as a semi-magical weight loss aid, which I think was mentioned in the email that went to points near and far.
Like Paul Revere's shot, I think it was the email that "went 'round the world."
In the information I gleaned about raspberries, it was noted that preliminary studies on laboratory animals suggest raspberry ketone might increase fat metabolism, similar to capsaicin, which is found in hot peppers. Supposedly, no control trials have been completed, so those studying it don't know how much someone would need to take, how safe it is, or even if it works at all.
Another Internet site referred to studies done on mice (why do the little mice always get picked on?) that were given raspberry ketone and it appeared to prevent weight gain when they were fed high-fat diets. Apparently the anti-obesity effects were due to stimulation of lipolysis (which is how the body breaks down fat in fat cells called adipocytes) in both regular fat tissue and brown fat tissue.
The raspberry ketone also reportedly suppresses release of pancreatic lipase, a digestive enzyme needed to break down dietary fats so they can be absorbed through the small intestinal wall.
But this research was conducted on rodents, and we're humans. We have different physiology and different emotional reasons for eating (or not eating) fats and other foods. So just because the mice didn't get fat while being given raspberry ketone doesn't mean it will work the same way in humans. To know if raspberry ketone can work in humans requires clinical research, which apparently isn't available.
So will it hurt someone to take raspberry ketone supplements? Probably not. Will it help someone lose weight? There's some doubt about that. More than likely it will just make one's wallet a little lighter.
Another person, who was featured in a story last year, was among those targeted by the hacker. He thanked me for the weight loss tip, so I'm assuming he got the raspberry pill message that went to Ginger, He said he had "the feeling" that my account had been "hijacked or hacked or whatever they call it." (He sounds as if he would be my technological equal.)
Longtime newsman and good friend Dennis Byrd was the first to alert me to the hacking. He said: "I got a suspicious-looking link from you that I didn't open. I figured if I did I would get my 'just deserts.'"
That's a private joke of many years' standing.
I just find it amazing that people don't have more to occupy their time than to mess with someone's email account. I wonder if this is this someone who has met me, or was I just a random target for an individual's middle-of-the night fun?
The mystery goes on.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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