Mat Honan’s piece ‘Kill the password‘ in the latest edition of Wired almost brought me to tears. Mat’s online profile was hacked, probably for his Twitter account, @mat, and the hackers decided to just erase all his documents he had files in the cloud. Which meant everything digital he had, including all the pictures of the first four years of his daughter’s life. My eldest kid is almost four. What if I were to lose all the photos of him? Gasp. This tragedy led him to do research in internet security and especially it’s Achilles’ heel: the password. Someone can find you home address, last four credit card digits and Gmail account name online? All they have to do is call customer service, provide that information and bang, you are owned. And all that information is a lot easier to find than you’d wish.
Bike-theft prevention strategy
Anyway, seeing as how Mat is a writer for Wired which means that there is 96.5% chance that he is more internet savvy than me and you, this is a frightening concept. If he can’t protect his stuff, what chance do I have? Well, I guess for me, my weakness is my strength, and it may be the same for you. My logic when it comes to bike-theft prevention is not to buy the most expensive lock out there, but to always find a bike that has an even more worthless lock to park mine next to. And I also do the exact opposite thing as I do with the bike theft prevention: I I do not own a black or dark bike which is so common over here. I apply paint; yellow, pink, green. That makes my bike a lot less attractive to steal and I don’t care what it looks like, I’m sitting on it, I don’t see it. Online, like swarming sparrows, strength lies in numbers. I don’t stand out in any way. That is not by choosing, it is just the way it is for the great majority of us.
Personal data and backups
Especially that last argument is very weak. It’s almost the same argument Big Governments use when they try to get their hands on more of your private information and communication; most of have nothing to hide, so they have nothing to fear. That’s completely true, until it;s no longer true at which point it will be too late to do something about it. Ironically, extra safety actually comes from giving up part of your privacy by handing your personal mobile number to Big Google for two step verifaction. I chose to do so. Back to the stealing of your digital life: I do back-ups. Cloud back-ups in case my hard drives get lost in a fire, or stolen by an idiot burglar, and I do back-ups on hard drives in case something that happened to Mat happens to me. This is still not 100% disaster proof, but it’s a start. I also try to limit the amount of personal info I leave around the web. I am not saying it’s impossible to find my current home adress or mobile number online, but I try to be careful. In Mat’s case, it wasn’t the password that did it, it was the fact that the hackers were given a password reset by the Apple helpdesk who were tricked into believing it was Mat himself asking for it. And since all his accounts were linked, the hackers had access to everything.
Oh, and: Get.a.proper.up.to.date.virus.scanner.
Our digital future isn’t just a blessing. It’s a bumpy road and there will be some casualties along the way.