Monday, May 31, 2010

It really sucks to be hacked!!!!

Yesterday, I arrive at work for 8AM and am sitting down for a cup of tea, my morning usual, when I receive a phone call from a former eTeacher asking whether I'm okay. I reply that I'm fine. She goes on to say, she received an email from my GMail account saying I was stranded in Wales after being mugged. I raced to my computer and try to log on to my account with no success. Someone had hacked my account and was using it for their own personal scam. As a computer guy, who takes tremendous precautions with my accounts and using the Internet, I was frustrated.

I immediately go to where Gmail directs you to reset your password, and receive an email at my alternate email account saying my password is reset and am able to log in. I frantically begin to email all 839 of my contacts that I'm sorry for any inconvenience, but am unable to because I have maxed my limit for emails as the hacker had already sent the maximum amount of emails and I couldn't send anymore. In hindsight, I needed to go through my account settings and change all forwarding information that was being redirected to the hackers email. So when I reset my password, I didn't think about the hacker getting an email that the password was changed at the same time. So while I was logged on, the hacker entered my account and changed the password on me again logging me out of my session. I go back to Gmail to reset my password. I get back in and am looking for the forwarding information. I delete that incident. What I didn't realize is there is a second place to go to change the password recovery information. The hacker had changed things there too. This is one of things he/she changed. They had the mail being forwarded to another Yahoo account.



In addition, they had the inserted their mobile number under the Accounts and Import Tab, Change Account Settings. They changed my personal security question as well.



The above image illustrates where I didn't update my information quickly enough when I would get back into my account. So every time I reset the password, the hacker was being notified by text message and at the secondary email address. I've since researched that it is important to insert your mobile number in this place in the event that an individual does breach your account and change the password, it alerts you immediately and you may prevent what happened to me.

Upon being blocked out completely, I was unable to access this blog, because it was linked to my Gmail account. I then went to the FBI site and filed a complaint with the information I had retrieved from the account forwarding. I had written down the email address. I then sent an email to the hacker from another Gmail account I created just for them informing them that I had contacted the FBI.

I tried to call Google, but every thing was closed for Memorial Day. Trying to find a contact phone number for Google was difficult. I finally found it on some forum. After some digging around I found a link at Gmail for resetting your password that sent an email to my primary email account and I got into my account, changed all the forwarding information to my own. When the hacker tried again, I received the email that they had reset the password instead of them receiving it this time. In the meantime, when I finally got into my account the hacker had deleted all my contacts and every email for 5 years.

That was frustrating. Another frustration is Gmail asking for when you created the account. If you cannot answer the question, you cannot report the account as being compromised. The only way you find out when your account was created is by your first few emails, if you kept them.

Here's the message that was sent out, so you are aware. It's not new. After searching, I have found that it has been used since January of this year.

"I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my fam and I came down here to Wales,United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us. We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than few hours from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills, I'm freaked out at the moment."

When any of my contacts responded, they received this response:

"Glad you replied back.All i need is a quick loan of $1,300 to sort out the hotel bills cos the authorities have already make arrangement for our return tickets and I thought about having it wired to my bank account but i can't find a branch of my financial institution anywhere close,There's a Western Union money transfer service very close to Heath row Airport(that's where we're flying from).I can receive it there within minutes right after you have wired the cash to my name. you can send it from any western union outlet around you. Here are the details needed to get it to me Name: (My Name) Location:Cardiff Wales United Kingdom As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the MTCN confirmation number"

How did this happen you might ask? I recently was at my Wilkes University graduation in Pennsylvania, and accessed my Gmail on the hotel wireless, which was unsecure. Two days ago, I received notification from Gmail, that someone was tampering with my account, and was I in the vicinity of any of the following IP addresses. I looked them over, and thought. They were just checking to see if I had accessed the account from another locale. I shrugged it off, thinking it probably was okay. That was my second mistake. I really needed to pay attention to that warning. The first mistake was using an unsecure network. As I type this blog from a hotel room in Saskatchewan, I am hardwired, because the network is unsecure here as well. I'm taking no chances.

I want to thank all the concerned friends that called my from as far away as Columbus, Ohio to check that I was okay. Greatly appreciated.

On a positive note, I finished my Master of Science in Education degree with Wilkes University. That will always be a highlight, despite the hacking experience. Hopefully folks will be warned and take the necessary precautions to prevent this from happening to them. I thought I was cautious, but obviously not enough. I take comfort that I'm not the only computer guy, who has been hacked. If you want, take the time to read the blog (Gmail and Google Apps Account) from another individual who was hacked. He gives some great recommendations, which I've already began to implement.

On another positive note, I want to leave you with another powerful video by Ken Robinson at TedTalks. You may remember the talk he gave about Schools killing Creativity. This is a follow-up called "Bring on the Learning Revolution." Absolutely great!



Enjoy!


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