How easy it is to destroy your digital presence?

It is sometimes inconceivable how easy it can be to erase our whole life in a second if we’re using all the latest and most advanced technologies.

A couple of days ago, Wired.com published an article by Mat Honan that described at length how his whole digital life was ruined, and how easy it was to ruin it. I’ll summarize it for you, but reading the whole thing might be very enlightening to some.

It all started when someone decided to target Mat’s twitter account. In order to do that, the hackers used the “recovery” options of Amazon, Google and Apple. It seems that knowing the email address of one of Mat’s emails was surprisingly enough for the hackers to take over his Gmail, .Me,  Amazon and ultimately – Twitter, the real target. While doing all that, the hackers nuked Mat’s iPhone, Mac, and destroyed his digital work and photos that he hadn’t backed up.

Why did it happen? Well, Mat is blaming Apple as the guilty party of this whole fiasco. I can’t disagree that Apple’s behavior in this case was unreasonable (although they claim that it was against their interna policies), but I also think that Mat himself has a part in it.

How to avoid this? Here are some tips that might help you in the future:

  1. Use two-steps authentication on Gmail. This would prevent the whole Mat’s story from happening, and would let you know immediately that someone tries to access your account on Gmail.
  2. Backup your work. Have a separate external hard drive that would be your backup location for all your work on all your computers. For less than $100 you can get 1-2TB drives, and the savings are significant when compared to data recovery services costs.
  3. One of the links that allowed the hackers to do what they did to Mat was him using the same credit card and having it saved both at Apple and Amazon. Don’t allow on-line retailers save your credit card information. If you must – use different credit cards for different retailers (for example – use Amazon Visa for Amazon, another card for Apple).
  4. While nuking your iPhone through Apple “Where is my iPhone” service may be reasonable if stolen, why do that for your MacBook? If the laptop gets stolen, the data from it will undoubtedly be copied elsewhere way before it is allowed to “phone home” and get nuked remotely. So most likely, the only one who’ll get burned would be you. See Mat’s example. If the data is important and confidential, use encryption and password protection instead.
  5. Mat had warning signs: his email stopped working and at that time he might be able to have done something to stop the attack. Don’t ignore strange and unexpected behavior. If your GMail suddenly stops working on your phone, go to this page and see what you can do to recover.

Bottom line – use caution on line, and take steps to protect yourself ahead of time. Learn from others’ mistakes. Oh, and note to Mat: if someone does something illegal to harm you – do press charges. Otherwise, how can we stop them?

Your Little Advisor

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