Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Honesty and email

Kylie and I had been planning for weeks that one of her friends from college would come out to South Africa and visit us. I'll graciously refer to her as Ms. X from now on so as to protect her identity. Kylie and Ms. X had plans to drive from Durban and Cape Town and do some scuba diving along the way. I was going to come a long for some of the trip. Flights were bought, rooms reserved, and Kylie even spent two weekends taking a diving course just so she could dive with her friend. We were all excited to see Kylie's old friend and show her a good time in South Africa.

The plan was that Ms. X was to going to visit her boyfriend in Florida just before her trip to South Africa. She emailed us from Florida saying she was about to head back home to pack and leave for her long flight to Durban. However, the morning that Ms. X was to leave, we got a very flustered email from her saying that she had lost her passport and could not make the trip. She seemed very apologetic and upset by the whole thing. Naturally, Kylie was too. We had been planning for weeks on her arrival, and this changed everything considerably. We scrambled to salvage what we could of the reservations, but ended up losing some money as a result.

I have never met Ms. X, but knowing what I know about females, I suspected she was lying. No one loses their passport 6 hours before a flight. I figured she decided to stay in Florida and simply didnt want to confess that she had ditched us for her boyfriend. Luckily, knowing what I know about computers, I thought I could prove it.

What Ms. X didnt realize is that every email has kind of "envelope" on the outside called a header. The header tells you a lot about where the email is going, and where it has been. Instead of physical addresses, the internet uses IP addresses. These IP addresses can easily be looked up and the actual, physical location that the email was written can be discerened.

So, with Kylie's permission, I looked at the header of Ms. X's email. It was supposedly written from her home in Washington DC amidst the confusion of her lost passport. However, when I looked up the IP address, this is what came up:
IP Address Country (Short) Country (Full) Flag Region City ISP Map STATESFLORIDAFT. LAUDERDALESTS TELECOM
We can thus assume that she never left and had made up the whole story about her losing her passport as a cover.

Because Kylie is the sweetest, kindest person on the planet, she wouldnt confront her friend about it. She really wasnt even all that mad, though I think her feelings were hurt. She just played along with the story and said that these things happen. I thought she should have confronted her, but Kylie resisted the temptation. That is why she is such a great friend and good person.

I think this story teaches us somthing that we have always known: be honest! Sure, it would have sucked to email Kylie and explain that you have decided not to come to South Africa and stay with your boyfriend in Florida. But it would have been much better than lying about it, and getting caught. So if anything good can come out of Ms. X's bad decisions and my internet snooping, maybe its the realization that in most cases, the truth is a hell of a lot better than a lie, especially when it comes to your friends.

Also know that your emails can be traced with a minimal amount of effort. In fact, here are two sites that will teach you how to do it: This site shows you how to find the IP address of the sender. This site allows you to look up the IP address and will give you a print out like the one above.

So be good and honest to one another and hopefully you will never need to even use these sites.


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