Every time I use the same password on an internet start up I wonder if this will be the time that this XKCD prophecy is fulfilled.
It seems nobody can safely enter the world of online Christian dating. Cyber bullies from 4Chan have stolen a bunch of login details from a Christian dating service’s database and used them to hack the people’s corresponding Facebook profiles, posting all manner of nasties and shocking family members. I’d seen a couple of their escapades pop up on a couple of the humour blogs I subscribe to. They’re not nice. And I can’t imagine having to explain that sort of thing to friends and family. Here are some examples – don’t believe your friends if they claim these things without talking to them first…
“Status updates posted on other hacked Christians’ Facebook profiles included racist hate messages and messages pretending that the poster had contemplated suicide or had accidentally killed a homeless person.
The hackers also caused trouble between the users and their friends, writing on one user’s photo that their baby was “ugly” and on another woman’s photo that her teeth matched her skin.”
The message here – other than “don’t always believe what you read on someone’s Facebook account” is “don’t use the same password for all your sites across the internet”… oh, and “don’t have a stupidly simple password” and on that point I’m speaking from experience…
I’d also suggest not keeping all your passwords in your email inbox. That’s a recipe for disaster
A couple of people have commented on my Facebook note regarding the hacker saga (it was imported from a post to my old blog – one of the ways I tried to get the word out regarding the hacker). Scams of this nature traditionally involve someone claiming to be in dire trouble – and asking for money to be transferred via Western Union. In this case the hacker also changed the access email address for my account to something quite bizarre and obviously not linked to me. This same process was carried out with another friend’s account a couple of weeks back – and the best way to get access to your account back, and the way I got my account back, is to notify Facebook immediately. The link is pretty hard to find – but it’s here in case you’ve come to this post via google looking for some sort of solution to your own Facebook hacking saga.
In my case the hacker was logged on at around 2am Australian time, claiming to be from England. It would appear that he had also hacked into the email account he was using to access my Facebook – but that’s pure speculation on my part. To my knowledge he spoke to two of my friends – who both took similar courses of action to verify that it was not me – one rang my mobile, the other tried to get in touch with my parents. Hackers are not smart. The basic premise of the hacker’s story was that I was in London and had been robbed at a hotel. I needed money. My friend Mark had seen me at a wedding three days before this conversation took place:
when did you fly to London?
4 days ago
did Robyn fly with you?
we are robbed together
you flew out on the 19th?
cant remember the date
why are you asking?
why can’t you remember?
what day was it?
Nathan this isn’t like you what’s going on? when did you fly out of Townsville?
Hello Nathan? What’s happening? this isn’t like you what day did you fly out>
i told you something
you didnt believe me
what else do you want me to say???
you said you flew out 4 days ago, i can’t believe that becuase i saw you 3 days ago
i want to know what’s going on.
it was 4 days ago
Friday, the 19th was 4 days ago, and I saw you at the Wedding on Saturday the 20th.”
Lesson one for would be Western Union scammers – make sure you don’t contradict someone when they tell you where they last saw you. Lesson one for potential victims – stick to your guns. The scammer then suggested Mark transfer money using his credit card and westernunion.com – when he was told Mark didn’t have a credit card he suggested he head to his nearest Western Union agent. No doubt unaware the Darling Downs (where Mark was staying) doesn’t think highly of 24 hour trading…
one problem mate. i don’t have a credit card
then go and do it any agent close to you
have you gone?
no i’m here
how much can you loan me?
how much do you need?
how much can you afford?
you need $800 cash?
aussie dollars is very loan in UK
low in UK
right i understand
when are you going?”
Mark by this time had called me – and decided it was time to give the hacker a moral lesson. He didn’t like that much.
why, well i’m interested, when did you got a new email address?
is that your business?
why would you need that to help me out in a situation like this
and how’s the weather in Nigeria?
and finally how can you ask for money from well meaning people?
you are nut
i am nut
does not appear so
have a nice day
not to meet again
At this point I logged in to Robyn’s Facebook account to try to initiate dialogue with the hacker – he ended our Facebook friendship. But not our Facebook marriage. He also went very close to convincing friends of mine who were in England at the time to help – they offered to drive north to London to rescue me – which is nice. But all the hacker wanted was my money.
I was left with no access to my account, some confused friends, and an email address for the hacker. I decided to take matters into my own hands. The hacker’s email address was an address at verizonmail.com – which is a domain sold by mail.com. I sent them an email complaining about the misuse of that account.
Then I got in touch with the hacker.
If that is your real name… I am willing to pay to get my account back under my control. Please forward your Western Union account details. I would be willing to pay $US250 to have my account returned.
I’m not advocating this sort of behaviour in normal circumstances – but this hacker already had my email address, and various other pieces of information from my account, so it was not a hard decision to make.
Lesson one for people with lax online security – you know how they say make your password hard to guess and don’t use the same password at multiple sites – this probably saved me losing access to my gmail – which thanks to its wonderful archiving system would have allowed the hacker access to my passwords for multiple accounts on multiple different sites.
I received a response to my generous offer…
“RICHARD Vincent is the name
Location is London,Uk”
I intended to use as much information I could get to try to get into this guy’s email address – his secret question was “pet name” – I would suggest never using an obvious answer to your secret questions (ie don’t use something people can find out by googling you). Anyway, I also tried a couple of sites that let you reverse search an email address – one of them suggested an IP address somewhere in the US – but I figure that was for the Mail.com servers.
I wanted as much information about the hacker as possible so I went fishing (or phishing… almost)…
“Australia has increased regulations for Western Union money transfers – to combat fraudulent transactions. I also need to verify your date of birth and occupation.“
“august 6th 1976……
what should i make the password of the box??”
I wanted to stall him while I waited for Facebook to restore my account – or to get access to his email… which is probably not the most ethical way to go about it.
“Is this offer acceptable to you?
I don’t know how I can trust that you will in fact relinquish control of the account – how would you suggest proving that you can be trusted?”
That’s right hacker. Make me trust you. Someone who’s proven untrustworthy already.
So he responded with a little bit of pathos. A happy birthday to me. And a revelation that for him at least – it’s all about the money.
“so today is your birthday?
i can swear with my life that you will get the account back immediately you send me the money.Thats all i need.
am sorry for doing this,but i need the money.
The choice is yours”
I decided to see just how dumb he was. If he reset the email address on my account I could have a password reset form emailed to myself… but this email bounced.
“I’m not sure the word of a hacker is worth much to me.
I think perhaps if you change the email address on my account back, send me an email notifying me of the change. When I see the email on the account has changed I will make payment and we can agree on a password for you to change it to.”
Poor Richard Vincent in London probably has no idea why his email address has been closed down. Or maybe it was just an account set up to swindle unwitting facebook friends out of their hard earned cash.
As I mentioned in an earlier post on this situation – there are lessons to be learned from this experience. Don’t make your password something stupidly obvious. Don’t make your secret questions easy to figure out. Don’t store passwords for every account you have in one email address. Don’t use the same password for more than one site. Change passwords regularly. And don’t expect $800 from your Facebook friends.