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Coming Out Swinging

February 20, 2011

I hate to talk about my personal life, but these days I suppose your “internet self” and your real self are viewed by most people as one and the same.  And I guess it’s not really “personal” anymore to have your Facebook account hacked, any more than a burglar personally selects you to rob. 

In both cases, most of the time “shit happens” is the determining factor:  when your house is robbed, it’s because you left the door open, or you live in a bad neighborhood, or someone saw you go in the house with a large new television, or because it was on his way, just as random a misfortune as it gets.  On the web, a stupid password (like “password1234” or something) is an unlocked door, and let’s face it, even when the door is locked, the whole Internet is a bad neighborhood that allows thieves to jiggle the handles of a million doors while they play a video game and wait for one to open.  And even with all the municipal cutbacks, you’re still more likely to get a cop to come to your house when it’s robbed than you are to find a path through a website that lets you appeal to someone somewhere to bring down the Wrath of God on your attacker.  You can reset the password, up your security, but there’s no VENGEANCE button to press that stalks the IP address of the intruder and vaporizes their house (or at least their computer).  You can get a boilerplate email about how we regret the incident and how you can prevent it from happening next time, but you don’t get a white hat hacker riding down the broken trail to bring the varmints to justice.

I didn’t leave the door unlocked to FB, but it was a non-stupid but “old” password that I’d used for other places (now well changed).  Unlike a house, you can’t “alarm” a website, though there’s a billion dollars to be made in securing access to FB etc. with Bitlocker-type flash drives or some other type of “hard” keys to soft locks that could prevent anyone but you from actually accessing anything.  Fortunately for me, I’d gone “antisocial” and deactivated my FB account, tired of feeling like I was being forced to join something against my wishes and temporarily soured on humanity in general.  Also fortunately, I’m paranoid enough that I didn’t delete it for fear someone would cybersquat on my name and pose as me.  So yesterday I got a mail from FB saying “You recently reactivated your account,” probably sent minutes after someone logged in, and checked by me four hours later.

I hadn’t reactivated my account…but someone had, just by logging in as “me.”  If I hadn’t deactivated it, that intrusion would have been just another login and who know what havoc would have been wreaked before I found it, if ever.  I quickly logged in and changed everything.

There are degrees of violation, and most everyone knows what it’s like to be robbed in some form or another.  Having an account hacked that contains no financial information is not the worst thing that can happen to you, but it is upsetting.  You ask yourself, “why me?” in the assumption that it is personal, that someone chose you personally to mess with, when it was probably a mindless script throwing a million passwords at a million login pages.  But the powerlessness of being “robbed” is compounded by the fact that it’s just as upsetting that you’ll never know who or why.  There’s no “Law and Order: Internet” to bong-bong the wicked to justice.

If I were a religious person, I’d call it a “blessing,” since on reflection I realized it was time I surrendered to Facebook, the highest of Higher Powers in our social lives today.  What was I gaining by not being on it, nothing, and what was I missing, who knows…  My friends in Texas recently got a new dog, and I was asking them to email me pictures since I couldn’t see them on FB (how fast the world turns when you’re “old” for still using email).  I’m in school trying to make friends, and yet making it impossible for anyone to approach me in the only safe and acceptable way for anyone to do that anymore.  Yeah, I got found by one or two people I never wanted to hear from again, but closing the door on the world to keep them out was only cutting my nose off to spite my face.

So there you go.  I want someone to pay for this “cyberhome invasion,” but that’s not going to happen.  The only way I can strike back is to make myself *more* public, to get out there in the world and make more friends, more allies, so that the next time this happens, I don’t feel so scared and alone.

 

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