Monday, January 24, 2011

Cyber Moping/Musing

There are several nasty ways to wake up each morning. As a diabetic, periodically I dream that I'm chasing candy, and wake up in insulin shock. And when a storm front is moving into our realm, there are times when my arthritis flares and I wake up feeling like I'm 90 years old. Last week I decided that I would much prefer waking up compliments of those incentives, as opposed to what took place a few days ago.

So, there I was, still half-asleep, starting up my computer. It was around 5:30 a.m. and I woke up feeling like I should work on a manuscript I've been tweaking lately. But first, of course, I felt the need to check my e-mail. This proved to be a big mistake!

With my new laptop, it doesn't take long to get things started. I stared, bleary-eyed at my screen as it worked its magic and pulled up the internet first thing. I clicked on my e-mail account and ta-da (as my tiny granddaughter says over great accomplishments), instant gratification . . . and mortification. Sitting in my in-box was a message to me . . . from me. I didn't recall sending anything to myself (I figure that's right up there with talking to one's self, but I digress).

Wide awake now, I opened this weird e-mail and found that it contained a link to a terribly inappropriate website. I was not amused. There wasn't a title in the subject box and I knew with a sinking feeling, that this was one of those much-discussed hacker jobs. Someone had broken into my account and sabotaged things. It made me sick. Just last week, this same thing had happened to a good friend of mine, and the e-mail supposedly sent from her, went out to everyone on her e-mail address list. I had consoled her teasingly at the time, since she is currently serving as the stake R.S. president in our area. That wayward e-mail had gone to people like our stake president. OUCH!!!

Figuring my dilemma was due in part to my secret snickering over my friend's mishap (I've always shared the following phrase with my children: "That which we mock, we become!" I should know better!) I immediately began repenting. It's not as funny when it happens to you personally. And the subject matter in my hack job was far worse than what my friend endured.

I'll admit, I sat in shock for a minute. Then I sprang into action. I was going to be out of town for four days and knew I needed to rectify this immediately. I sent warnings to everyone listed in my e-mail addresses, explaining the situation. Then I sat back and offered a small prayer that all would be well.

I also changed my e-mail password . . . again . . . something I do quite often these days as my computer literate children recommend to keep things safe. As I did all of this, I felt a surge of anger. Why does this kind of thing keep happening? I love the instant access the internet give us to family and friends. And, it makes things like paying bills and banking much easier. But it also opens the door to tremendous misery when reprobates decide this is a great thing to exploit. Are people really so bored in their own lives that they feel the need to invade everyone else's privacy? And then there's the matter of fraud. I know of several people who have had their bank accounts tampered with compliments of internet thieves. I also know there are online predators who take full advantage of innocent lives, causing havoc and pain.

It's rather scary when you think about it. And yet, like everything else, there is much that is good about the internet. It makes research so much easier for someone like me, who dabbles in the written word. I've also found tons of information about my ancestors compliments of the internet. And I love being able to snag pictures of my loved ones when they post them on places like Facebook, or on their individual blogs. However, it makes me uneasy when I realize how easy it is for online predators to do the same thing.

In my opinion, the internet is a two-edged sword. If it swings in the right direction, much good is accomplished. But when it swings the other way, look out---the injuries inflict untold misery.

One of my sons is a computer genius, and he is often telling the rest of our clan how we can be safe online: We are to use only numbers and symbols for passwords. Never belong to anything like unto "Facebook." Etc. and so forth. And yet, I protest. I hate feeling intimidated by online hackers\predators. In a way, it's like we're letting them win when we adapt our lives to hinder them. There has to be a better way. Until I figure it out, I'm open to suggestions. What do the rest of you do to be safe online in cyber-space? (Feel free to share.)


Anna Buttimore said...

Cheri, this happened to me a while ago - just my online account, not my main one. I deleted every address in my address book and turned off the thing which automatically adds addresses to your address book. All my email addresses are now in an old fashioned paper address-book. But it means that if my account gets hacked (and it's generally done by computers, not people) it can't send anything to everyone in my address book, because there isn't anyone.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Great idea, Anna. Maybe that's what I'll do. It would be worth it to not have to worry about this kind of thing happening again. =)