Monday, October 3, 2011

a day in the life of a hacked woman

Friday, October 1st, 2011 - I'm blissfully in REM sleep when...

7:16 am
I wake up to an annoying repeated buzz. Not being a morning person, I say "oh for crying out loud" to no one in particular and try to go back to sleep. The buzzing continues, insistent. And then, suddenly, respite. A moment later, it restarts, furiously. It's coming from my iphone, which, apparently, is having a little orgasm party.

7:21 am
I get up reluctantly and check my email. Sure enough, that's the culprit. There is a massive influx of messages from someone called Mail Delivery System. I don't understand what's going on. I squint and try to decipher the messages on the small screen without my reading glasses. I catch the words mail, delivery, and failed randomly in different emails. I move to my desktop to take a closer look. Holy shit, this is bad. I'm gonna need some coffee, pronto.

7:30 am to 8:00 am
There are at least 400 notifications of bounced-back emails. There are also all these other notifications from my provider regarding attempted delivery of an email I never sent. Yup, I've been hacked. I try to read some of the original messages embedded into the returned emails and find out that, unbeknownst to me, I have been peddling in my sleep, among other things, Viagra, the Genie bra, and merci merci lunettes (whatever they are). And also proposing, among other things, to "share my sexual experience" with all my family members, friends, co-workers, every company I ever ordered anything from, and all my acquaintances past and present. Holy shit. And my clients. HOLY SHIT!

8:00 am to 9:00 am
I realize that in the avalanche of automated messages, there are genuine emails, like this one:
Hello (my name),
I believe your email account has been hacked. May want to change your password.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from you even if it may not have been intentional. Maybe someday you will let me know why you stopped being friends.
Still miss you much.
(his name)
I haven't seen, talked to, or heard from this guy in over 10 years. I suddenly notice that with every "holy shit" I say out loud, my dog is freaking out a little. So I just mouth it. Repeatedly.

9:00 am to 9:30 am
I'm on the phone with a tech person from my email provider, trying frantically not to sound like the freaked-out version of myself where I repeat the same information (over and over) by just changing the words a little, or give out way too much information than is requested of me. She is cool, collected, and speaks slowly, just in case I'm retarded. She tells me that:
  1. I did all I could by changing my password for this particular account.
  2. There seems to be no other virus or malware that she can detect from the info I gave her (also because I told her that the first thing I did was run a thorough scan of my computer which came back clean).
  3. I should upgrade my computer protection to this particular anti-virus software that does everything except shackle a digital intruder and deliver him/her directly to the police. 
  4. I should buy the particular anti-virus software that does everything except shackle a digital intruder and deliver him/her directly to the police... FROM HER.
Sure, lady, that's exactly what I need right now! Now will you do me a favor and call my mom and explain all this to her? Then, if you have time, since you seem so eager to help, can you start calling my uncles and aunts and cousins and friends and co-workers and my daughter's teachers and principal and my priest and my clients for me and tell them the same thing too? I'll start making a list, I'll email it to you shortly. I'll be sure NOT to use the email account that got compromised because that's EXACTLY what the hacker would want: more contact info from me. No? Really? Too much? 'Ya think?!?

10:15 am
After having paced furiously and smoked probably a pack of cigarettes by now, I sit my behind down to assess the situation.

10:42 am
My behind is falling asleep while I'm scouring google for info on what to do next. I realize that the solutions are provider-specific and that I should be grateful that I wasn't locked out of my own account (which apparently also happens sometimes) or worse, been hacked properly by having someone take over my computer entirely. But mostly that I have a lot of email address changes to request.

1:17 pm
I have thought of everything recent that has required my hacked email address as a log-in, identification, or mail-delivery, and have made all the necessary changes. I now move on to cleaning up my Outlook inbox. I find a few automated "vacation" responses to my shamefully misspelled and painfully obvious sales pitches, namely from old professors who oddly seem to be on some sort of coordinated hiatus. Oh hey, here's that guy who spent the whole semester asking us what we thought whenever we asked him factual questions, because he couldn't be bothered to read the material he required. Lazy asshole. I hope you click on something nasty and get a virus (no I don't) (but he was a lazy asshole) (maybe he's fired and wants to save face by pretending to be unavailable for legit reasons).

2:00 pm to bedtime
I spend the remainder of the day, after a much deserved copious lunch, glued to my computer, with my cell phone nearby, answering calls, emails, and texts ranging from empathizing to puzzled to downright hostile (it's a good thing I had the day off...this was so much better than shopping, right?) Even though I haven't been using this email account much of late, I have had it since 1997 and it appears that I have in fact racked up a ginormous contact list. It must have looked like manna from heaven to my neighborhood friendly (and let's not forget entrepreneurial) hacker. Sorry buddy, you're unplugged. And I think I'm doing you a favor because, seriously, who really is gullible enough to buy that shit?

Tomorrow, I will sit down and trim my contact list to the bare essentials. You want in or out?


At 10/3/11, 5:58 PM , Blogger Gristle McThornbody said...

Oh sweet Jeebus! I clicked on your comment box and I can feel the cooties streaming from my keyboard up my arms. AAAAAuuughhhhhh! Kill me! Killmenow............!

You have my deepest sympathy. Never been hacked or had a virus but crashed my whole effing system once and lost every single thing. I literally spent days on the phone with techs getting things operational again.

I'm currently trying to walk my mother through getting her computer back online. It's great fun, all taking place on the phone, when you have to use terms like "the little house thing in the corner of your screen," because she doesn't know what her homepage is. Or her browser. Or her operating system. Or her Internet provider. Le sigh. She has no reason to have to know all that shit, but then she gets embarrassed and frustrated and feels foolish.

Sounds like you got everything back under control. Yay!

At 10/3/11, 7:32 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Oh great, now I'm scaring people off. I have several email accounts. I repeat: I HAVE SEVERAL EMAIL ACCOUNTS. This happened to be the one I've had the longest but because of all the spam it kept getting (which kept exponentially increasing every year), I was only using it occasionally and mostly for ordering stuff online (thus helping it attract more spam).

I give (big) props to your mom for trying to keep up with the dizzying pace of technology. I hear you loud and clear though. I have two of those myself, ambitious but clearly generationally challenged parents in their 70s. Who think I can telepathically see their screen when they call frantically to ask me what to do next. And who spell warning messages for me in French (the fun never stops with the i and e difference between French and English!)

At 10/3/11, 7:40 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

PS I am SO lucky it was just an email hack. I got stomach cramps just reading about your non-virus woes.

At 10/7/11, 10:11 PM , Blogger greenfridge said...

I'm surprised that you found out. It was a good thing that those emails got bounced back, because MANY of my friends have had their emails hacked and I had gotten weird emails from them. The poor things didn't even know that their email was going crazy. Plus they couldn't even trace who the emails had been to and what "they" had said.

Glad you you got the situation handled. Btw, I just discovered your blog & your "monday musings" have got me hooked! xx

At 10/8/11, 10:44 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

VP, welcome to MMM :)

A big chunk of the bounced backs were from order department email addresses (since I used this account to order stuff online) and they are defaulted to send back any email, not just the junky ones, so that helped in my case. I'm actually surprised your friends didn't have any contacts with a strong anti-spam that kicked the original email back to them. I got a lot of those too.

What is still puzzling to me is why they sent different offers to different people (the message wasn't definitely not the same for everyone). Wondering if random, computerized, or just plain idiotic.


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