Internet addiction is simple enough to describe, isn’t it? Basically, you spend too much time sat there, ‘surfing’ (I hate that phrase) and whatever. But while it should be considered widespread, as time goes on I find it harder and harder to think of it as a disease. Due to bad traffic, some days I might be sat in my car for almost 8 hours. Am I now suffering from car addiction?

No. I’ve unearthed the hidden net plague – and it’s rife. And what’s worse is, the more net-wise you are, the worst you have it. INTERNET PARANOIA. It’s not difficult to see where it comes from. For a start, you’re sat there, on line, in a room, maybe on your own. But you are logically connected to 100 million other people. That many! Now when you’re a newbie, what does it matter? It’s like someone looking over your shoulder as you thumb through the yellow pages. But as you get more in tune with what’s going on, anything and everything becomes an act of privacy suicide. I recently had a chat with a friend of mine called Andrew, who is doing a PHD in Internet technologies. I casually asked him if he could get hold of a piece of software for me. He said sure, and I followed on by saying I’d email him. His face darkened.

Email him? EMAIL HIM? Was I mad? Did I not realise that all free text mail was monitored by the IT managers where he was? OK, I said, I’d send it to his web based account. Now it appears I was just stupid. A web account? With people using redirectors? Javascript fake front ends? He practically stood up from shaking. OK, I conceded, I would send it to him encrypted.

ENCRYPTED! Andrew practically fell over. Did I not realise that almost 100% of all Internet traffic now goes through NSA routers in the US? That the world governments were sitting on everything we had ever submitted? That they had software decrypting every key ever written? Now I was ‘deranged’. Mad and stupid, it appears, had been quite mild.

Blimey. After a 15-minute chat where he walked the coronary tightrope of fear- induced, sweating information delivery, it appeared that almost everything on a computer these days was unsafe. It slowly transpired that the average Internet user who used instant messaging (that’s paging to you and me), online shops, any version of Windows, Intel chips, British Telecom, and shareware, and had typed their postcode, name, or credit card details into a web browser and had ever registered anything written by Microsoft, ever, was dumb, blind, air-headed, mad, deranged, gormless, deaf and, well, a bit thick.

Andrew then proudly showed me his ‘safe’ PC. It doesn’t have Windows, has virtually no software on it and won’t use any embedded software, making it useless for 90% of the important bits of the web. Virus checkers, anti-hacking guards and security software run flat out, leaving about 5% of the computer available for, you know, running a calculator program or even something as advanced as a word processor. Maybe one day I’ll have a computer that advanced. Until then, I’ll ‘stupidly’ carry on enjoying myself, with the worlds geeks knowing exactly where I live, how much I earn, and when I last bought an imported Wham CD off the net.