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Hacked

Posted by garethwatkins on September 17, 2009

I had been hoping to knock out a big steaming braindump tonight, but in the last 36 hours my Hotmail account has been hacked. The password has been changed and I can no longer access it. The same is true for my Facebook account.

Now I can live without Facebook, although it does mean I may lose touch with a few people. Those that seem to have forgotten that email exists and works perfectly well. Or those that haven’t quite yet grasped Twitter’s superiority. Losing the Hotmail account is a little infuriating though.

While I rarely use Hotmail as my main email address with friends, preferring my work account due to their sensible approach to email in the workplace (essentially, don’t be a twat) and it’s ubiquity in my (week)day to (week)day life. I do use Hotmail as a place to send myself messages from work so that I can access the information anywhere. It’s like my braindump before I dump the edited brain on here. It also contains things like my itunes e-receipts, membership information and other miscellaneous but handy rags.

And that’s where the real concern comes in.

Is there enough information in there to initiate credit fraud? Can my financial information be traced enough to be stolen? And, more importantly, does this compromise friends “working for our government” in foreign countries who only know this email address?

These are all questions that will be answered one way or another in time. Just how much time now depends on Microsoft and Facebook and their customer services departments. Both have been contacted via (work) email and both have responded with automated messages. And I understand this response, I really do. Most people who use the internet are idiots. That fact simply has to be true as most people are idiots.

So I politely furnished them with the information they required to confirm that I wasn’t an idiot (confirmation of self help steps taken, IP addresses, etc.) and I now await a response. Microsoft say I should have one within 24 hours, Facebook aren’t as specific. Mind you, Microsoft’s email also purported to be from “Max” in an attempt to convince me that I was dealing with a human. They should probably have just signed it off D.A.R.Y.L. It would at least have demonstrated some real human input somewhere along the line.

With this new-found zen-like peace, separated as I am from a segment of my social network, I have time to reflect on the emotions I’m feeling about this intrusion. I’ve been burgled before and never particularly felt my privacy had been invaded. Luckily, the burglars that have been at my stuff have never been ones to leave a “signature” behind. I think what has consumed me most, mentally, in relation to this is the question of “why?” Not an existential, “why, Lord, oh why?” but a logical understanding of the motivation.

The burglars wanted my stuff because they thought some of it might be worth a few quid and there wasn’t exactly a high level of security to prevent them from getting at it.* But they had no idea of the contents of my email account and my Facebook stuff isn’t really hidden as little is on Facebook. A thought which leads you to consider more vindictive intent. Was I targeted specifically?

Chances are that I’m not the focus of an internet scam, but a small fish just big enough to get caught in a large net. But what if I’m wrong? Who would want to hack me? The best I can manage is that it’s related to a programme I’m connected with through my job and a potentially unwise relationship stemming from that. Something it’s clearly best I don’t discuss at the moment and isn’t really that interesting in the first place. Or…Derren Brown is setting me up to be the star in the grand finale of his current Channel 4 series.

What has come out of all this is the unsympathetic abuse of friends who can’t understand why I’m not yet on Gmail. Firstly, I am on Gmail, but the intention was that my Gmail account would be a business-use account (job applications, an address to give people I don’t like but are handy to know, that sort of thing). Secondly, there is nearly a decade’s worth of crap stored in my Hotmail account. If I’m shifting email accounts I’m going to have to do some tidying, cleaning and shifting – it’ll be like moving house. And thirdly, if I’m going over to Google’s email system, I’d prefer a different address to the one I currently have. But I really don’t want a googlemail address. If I’m shifting, I want Gmail. But it’s starting to look like I may have no choice but to transfer over for my own protection.

I’ll keep you updated and I’ll hopefully have a braindump of substantial proportions to offer soon. And yes, I realise that if I want the information I’m sending myself from work I can just copy the emails from the sent items on my work account and forward them to my Gmail account. I realise this because I’m not one of the idiots.

*Please note, potential thieves, security has been increased significantly – I now have guard ferrets.

***UPDATE***20/09/09***UPDATE***

As a result of the initial complaint, the reply to the automated email from “Max” and the subsequent reply to “Diane” I was emailed with details of how to access my Hotmail account. And it worked. And it doesn’t appear that any damage has been done to it. None the less I’ll be transfering my stuff to my Gmail account as fast as I can. This also allows me to request Facebook to send me an email that allowed me to change my Facebook password. I have regained access to Facebook. Now I can continue to do nothing on there.

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