Archive Monthly Archives: August 2015

Life Is Short, Hack An Affair

August 24, 2015

Life is short, hack an affair?

The recent Ashley Madison hack highlights the concern that even sites whose actual gimmick demands high security are not even safe from hackers. There could be a lot of reasons why someone (or a group) would want to invade a site specifically like Ashley Madison. I don’t want to get caught up in the moral debate whether or not the customers of that site deserved it or not. I’ll just say I was not a member.

The point is that a site that depends on complete privacy for everything it’s members do, say and write has been hacked to the furthest degree. Not just credit cards. As seen by former reality TV star Josh Duggar’s hacked profile, intimacies like the details of the kind of sexual encounter he was seeking were also stolen and then released to the public.

It would be like someone breaking into one’s home and stealing a bunch of valuable stuff. Jewelry, collector coins, antiques, etc. But while they are there, they also grab a diary. There’s always valuable stuff in a diary! They bring it home and looking through the diary they read that this person has been hiding something from their spouse. Like, say, an extramarital affair. Now, this can be used as leverage in at least a couple ways. One, the burglar could mail the diary to the spouse who has been cheated on and tell them to look at the bookmarked page to find out for themselves. Second, a little note could be mailed to the cheating spouse telling them their little secret is known and the burglar is now using it as leverage to violate this family further.

hacker as burglar

We see someone breaking into our home as wrong every single time. If they were to discover and disclose an affair one is having with their spouse, we would empathize with that cheated spouse but we would still keep most of the focus on the burglar. This is one of the tricky things about the modern burglary, called hacking. It’s done by an anonymous person, sitting in their house. Total anonymity. There’s no dusting for fingerprints. Today’s hackers have an easier time concealing their identity than yesterday’s house burglar. The policing of this stuff has just not been perfected yet to any significant degree. So we have to police ourselves.

See that hacking is wrong. It’s immoral and illegal. Furthermore see that when you get hacked it’s not a simple process of prosecution. We don't just call 911, have the local police officer come to our house and arrest the bad guy and take him to jail. You have to be your own cop. A preventative cop. All over the world there are computers (including smartphones) and they each represent a respective direction from which a burglar could come. You need a policy in place on how to protect yourself from that potential threat.

More on that in the next chapter.

Protect And Serve Your Own

August 15, 2015

​I grew up -as we might say in New England- in a wicked safe neighborhood. I mean, I was a kid. It felt safe to me. And looking back, it was. It was the 80s. A group of us kids could get together and bounce around to each other’s house all day long. We'd play kickball at one house, have lunch at another and then ride our bikes up to the end of the road and over this big log on the edge of it to the convenience store. We’d buy some baseball cards and big league chew with the money we got from mowing lawns or washing mom and dad’s car. We could be hanging out all day long without any concern on the part of our parents. All the kids could play outside on a beautiful summer day, all day long, unattended, and it was totally safe. Today that same neighborhood may appear to be very similar. In many respects, it may still be, but with the advent of the internet and related technologies we’ve added a few dimensions and gone a little deeper into the rabbit hole. We didn’t lock the doors in my neighborhood, and I didn’t know anyone with a computer.

Many kids today have their own computers and smartphones. A computer and smartphone with an internet connection is a total game-changer. Every movement of a child carrying a smartphone is at risk of being tracked with the Location Services turned on. Location Services switched on tells the tracker (or hacker) where they’ve been, the route they took to get there and how long they were there. Apple says they store this information temporarily for them to better serve our needs as customers and assist in improving the product. However, more and more reports are coming out that these types of tracking abilities are being utilized by official channels like the National Security Agency. After all, their internal motto is Collect It All… In addition to that, there is always the threat of a hacker.

What is the purpose of all this data collection? Why is it necessary to have the ability to track everyone all the time? These are ideas that are imperative to explore further. This world is a beautiful place. In fact, it’s perfect. And there are, and always will be, people and subcultures that are working against the general public's best interest. Defending ourselves against those threats is a core purpose of this site. The kind of monitoring that is in place now though is very unsettling.

Little boy with smartphone

That can’t be the kind of world in which we want to raise our children. Of course, we are learning how to change it. At the same time, we need to learn how to work with the current circumstances. That is what clearing our tracks is all about. Be conscious of the tracks you make and the way you make ‘em. That’s a basic principle of life. These days, with computers and smartphones especially, be careful of who’s following the tracks you make. In fact, it may be better just to erase those tracks as much as you can. Even the most innocent child with a smartphone in their pocket, riding their bike around an otherwise friendly neighborhood is subject to potential harm. Let’s change that.

It’s up to us, the family. Protect and serve your own. The responsibility is too important to leave to the professionals.

Ben Franklin Has A Suggestion For You

Ever the consummate artisan, Ben Franklin designed the first American penny in 1787. It’s called the Fugio Cent. It contains the maxim “Mind Your Business.” Historians believe that he wanted this to be the national motto. Millions of people, in the public and private sectors, conducting business under the guiding principle of minding their merchant and personal business, i.e., you do your thing, and I'll do mine. We can work side by side, harmoniously, and as long as our moral compasses are in balance we will build a wonderful community. So, mind your business.

Email Security

Fast forward a few hundred years to today. Minding one's own business is hardly a priority for many individuals, never mind governments. We have people trolling and stalking others on the Internet and hacking into their computers and phones. Email providers like Google are offering other companies in the marketplace valuable information extracted from our email so they can better target us as customers. According to Google, we accepted this if we opened a Gmail account. Whether we have a Gmail account or not, whether we care or not that an email provider is soliciting our private correspondence to third parties.

Did you know that was happening? Were you "minding your business"? The fact is, we have consented to many invasions of our business, private and otherwise. It's simply a matter of awareness to what we signed. Reading the Privacy Policy, the Terms of Use, etc. Ultimately, I'm talking about being mindful of our business. Being thoughtful and aware of the engagements we make when on the internet. What Ben Franklin referred to as Minding Our Business. If we don't, who knows who will? Or already is? Ben Franklin has a suggestion for you. So do I. Mind your business. And clear your tracks.

The Clam Chowder Two-Step Protect

Remember in the original Ace Ventura movie when Ace goes backstage at the metal concert and knocks on a door? We don’t know what’s going on, but a voice then asks him for a password. He responds, “New England Clam Chowder.” There’s a pause before the voice comes back, “is that the red or the white?!” He guesses “white” and the door opens. His computer-hacker buddy Woodstock then greets him.

That's a great tip for internet security. I call it "The Clam Chowder Two-Step Protect". You can also think of it as just a two-step authentication when setting up passwords on various sites. Sometimes this can be even more than two steps. The more, the merrier. On top of enabling two-step authentication, do not click the option to “remember this password.” Consider using pass "phrases" instead of single words. The more hurdles you need to jump, the more hurdles a hacker needs to jump.

The concept is simple. Make the pass "words" long. Make them ALL different. Always have to type them out. Change them every month.

To be continued.


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A Dark Act To Follow

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and found that your debit card was hacked after shopping online? Or someone cracked the password on your email accounts? How would you feel if you knew government agencies were spying on you through your webcam, even though they didn’t even suspect you of any wrongdoing?

All these things have happened to millions of people. In fact, my wife and I were once both victims of debit card hacking- in the same month! We also have a young son. I need to protect him from and prepare him for this world.

snowman hacker

Protecting ourselves in a brave new world from such offenders is imperative. As we learn about ways to protect ourselves against these kinds of acts we inevitably open a Pandora’s box on matters far beyond our imagination as to who is a threat to us, our family and why. It’s not just the anonymous, nefarious debit card hackers. It’s companies and public officials we were taught to believe operated in the best interest of the public. It’s a mad world that we need to understand, so we don’t fall prey to it. And so that we may rise above and enjoy it as it should be!

How do we do this? How do we protect our personal, social and financial identities as law-abiding citizens? That's what we must learn. We are decades past 1984. Ignorance of these present-day circumstances is a dark act to follow. The time to act is now. You’ve found this message, so it’s not too late.

I’m the Snowman. I’ll show you how to protect yourself and… clear your tracks.