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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Let This Happen to You

Earlier this week my Gmail account was hacked.  It left me with the same feeling of violation I experienced about 25 years ago when my then beautiful Toyota Celica was broken into and my AM/FM in-dash cassette player was stolen.

I realize this has happened to many of you before, but having my email account hacked was a first for me and it really took me by surprise.   Just as the break-in to my titanium silver Celica did.


Because I thought I was protected -- in both cases.  After all, on my two computers I run the latest version of the Norton Security Suite -- courtesy of my Internet service provider, Comcast.  And I also run the free version of Malewarebytes Anti Malware.

And the Celica had a motion-sensor security system. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, all of these well-known and dutiful security solutions gave me what has turned out to be a false sense of security.

The nastiness started just before 8 p.m., just after I finished a great dinner and as I was settling in on the couch to check out what financial funny-man Jim Cramer had to say on his nightly show, which I DVRed.

I powered up my Toshiba Satellite L305-S5968 laptop, which had been in sleep mode, and opened Gmail.

And then - wham!

Once loaded, I saw that my inbox was filled with dozens of out-of-office responses from Gmail contacts around the world, dozens of delivery failures (I guess I need to update my address book), and a number of emails from a few former clients, co-workers and friends wondering what was going on.  I also received a few alerts from Twitter and Facebook friends.

Many of the recipients I heard from immediately recognized the email they received from me as a bad case of spam.  Most recipients didn't open up the message (story of my life). But for the more adventurous souls who did click through, they saw the goat (or is it a ram?) pictured here along with this verbiage:

"This journal has been suspended. Its contents are no longer publicly visible. LiveJournal cannot discuss the reasons for a journal suspension with anyone except the journal owner.about being suspended." 

Now, I have nothing against a goat (or ram) wearing an eye-patch and a pirate's hat, but ....

So before I share some information (coming in tomorrow's post) about how you can better protect your email account from being hacked, even though you too may think you are already protected, I want to share a few of my favorite responses from a few of the hacker's victims:

"This seems a little dodgy--did you get hacked? I didn't click through...figured I would check with you first. Hope all is well!"   ...from a fellow PR pro working at a big IT management company.

"Jim -- Long time, no contact ...good to hear from you.  The note below, however, looks suspiciously like something might have hijacked your address book and is sending out emails to all of your 'C' contacts. ...Hope all is well."   ...from a former client who works at a big IT management company (not the same company as above).

From another:  "virus or real?"   ...from a former client who works for the world's largest technology company.   

And another:  "Hi Jim, is this legit?"   ...past client now working for a leading data governance solutions company.     

Finally:  "Are you toying with me?"   ...friend and former colleague working for the world's largest technology company.

Tomorrow, I'll share what I learned from someone who has over 200 password-protected accounts and  is passionate about password management systems as a way to keep email hackers at bay.

1 comment:

  1. I have used AVG security for a couple of years now, I would recommend this solution to you all.