DIGITAL AMERICA

Hacked.

// Posted by on 02/17/2013 (11:31 PM)

Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried to alter accounts. I have been fortunate enough for this to not happen to me, despite being somewhat naive with my accounts at times. The more I hear about these occurrences though, the more paranoid I get. An article in Wired from last year tells just one tragic story of a personal hacking victim. Mat Honan, a normal American with a family, a job, Apple products and an Amazon account, had his digital life erased for the sake of a practical joke. I found his story somewhat heart-wrenching and indicative of how scary the potential for collateral damage is. Honan’s hackers got access to his Amazon account and used the Amazon information to reset his Apple ID password. The two companies require different information to verify identity, allowing the hackers to get through without knowing the answers to security questions. With the Amazon account information, the hackers deleted Honan’s Gmail account. The Gmail account was only deleted after the hackers obtained access to Honan’s Twitter account. With the Apple ID information, the hackers remotely wiped all of Honan’s devices using the “Find My” application.

Once the Twitter account was taken over, the hackers used it to start trouble and send racist and homophobic tweets to Honan’s followers. Honan created another Twitter account and sent the hackers a personal message @ his old Twitter handle. As it turns out, the hack was not a personal attack, but rather a quest to gain control of Honan’s Twitter handle. In the process, Honan’s entire digital life was erased.

Interestingly enough, almost all of Honan’s frustration and anger about the situation was directed at himself, Apple, and Amazon. He was upset with himself for not backing up everything into the cloud and for using the same prefix for his email accounts, etc. Honan recognized that his accounts could have been more secure. The frustration with Apple and Amazon exposes both of the companies for having a weak security framework. The people at Wired were able to replicate the scenario with instructions from the hackers within minutes.

The implications of Honan’s story are scary. I found myself feeling emotional during the article and frantically thinking about where and how all my information is shared and stored. Just the mere thought of losing all of my songs, photos, documents, and emails is enough to send chills through my entire body. Today, we put so much trust in the Internet and associated entities, but how safe is that? I think it’s definitely too late to transition back to physical/tangible data storage, but how can we be sure that the companies we’re trusting with our “lives” are keeping our best interests in mind? The article made me feel like a slave to the system – just another pawn on the chess board. How can we (as the average consumers) protect ourselves and get the power back for security?

I really recommend reading the entire article!


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Comments:


Patrick said...

I found this cool online calculator that can help figure out how at risk you are from identity theft, pretty cool to see where you stand.

// 02/18/2013 at 6:52 pm

Celia said...

Since I wrote this post, I have been thinking of times when my personal security has been threatened. I remembered that in high school I was affected by a somewhat small hacking event. Someone gained access to a girl’s Facebook page and found a way to convert a message thread into a zipped, downloadable file on a remote website (tinyURL or something like that). The file was then sent around via Facebook to anyone mentioned in the “thread.” The thread was over 200 pages and exposed underage drinking, illegal drugs, verbal abuse, and even inappropriate student teacher relationships. The school was forced to take disciplinary action on the girls that wrote the thread, including expulsion, suspension, and probation. You can read about it here.
Nobody ever figured out WHO found the thread and leaked it. The person’s action ended friendships, relationships, and changed the lives of those people that wrote it. The actor went unpunished and to this day, nobody will ever know what person had the motivation to expose and destroy so many teenagers.

// 02/19/2013 at 11:03 am