About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 20, 2010

Be Careful Out There!

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , — Ron @ 4:28 am

I recently received a distressing email from Barbara, Broadway, VA, about being hacked.  Her email started like this, "Yesterday I got up, turned on my computer, and found that my Gmail had been hacked…"  Once they had her email address it allowed them to gain control of her Facebook account too.

Her passwords were not accepted and her alternate Gmail address had been changed to one that she didn’t own.  (Gmail and other online email apps use an alternate to contact you in case something detrimental happens on their site and they need to get a hold of you.  I have never had the need for one yet.)  The hacker had also gone on to delete her address book and all of her contacts in it. 

Of course, all of her email was deleted…or so she thought.  She found later, after communicating with Gmail that all of her Sent mail had been put into her Junk folder, so at least she still had those.  They had forward all of her incoming emails to another account of theirs.  If your Gmail account is hacked you may want to read this and check a few account settings

Why do we get hacked?  As Barbara later discovered it was not someone local who got into her accounts.  They were hacked by someone or some organization in Nigeria.  The bad guys are usually hoping to get your bank account numbers, charge card info, etc.  They also may want to run scams on your friends, making them think you are excited about something the hacker can make money on.  The reasons are endless.

Barbara has not been the only one in the area to be hacked, so do not think it can’t happen to you.  Please take preventative action online or you may have some headaches.

At this time there isn’t any way to stay absolutely "unhackable" but there are things you can do to help prevent it.  First and foremost, make your passwords hard for others to get.  Make sure they are at least eight characters long.  Use upper case, lower case and symbols in your passwords.  Absolutely do not use the same password on all of your accounts.  If you do, when they get one, they get them all and your info is theirs!  Change your passwords several times a year.  If you don’t use an account, close it down.

I have over 194 different password protected sites I keep up.  Yes, I have a super-human photographic memory.  I remember each and every password for each individual site.  NOT! More about that in the near future.

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