Disclosure: My middle name isn’t Belle. I don’t even have a middle name anymore, since I removed it when I got married. My old middle name was
related to sex a “beautiful,” Spanish name that reminds me of Maria Conchita. But, for shits and giggles, let’s just use this French name instead, okay?
What. A. Weekend-and-two-days. A lot of blog designing and blogger to WordPress transferring happened this weekend non-stop. Also, lots of sad, puppy-dog eyeing happened as well. Those two sure do know how to make me feel like a terrible dog mother.
However, this weekend I also donned a different hat. One of a private investigator. And my job didn’t really finish until late yesterday afternoon. It was almost like science fiction. But worse, because this was real life.
One of my blogger to WordPress transfer clients’ Google account was hacked. And when I say hacked, I mean hijacked. We were getting ready to transfer her to WordPress over the weekend, when this hacker removed both of us as admins on her Blogger account and then assumed ownership of the blog, making the blog completely vanish from our dashboards. He proceeded to plaster ads on her blog, inject malicious code, and started deleting things.
And then came an email saying she needed to pay money to get her accounts back, or else he would delete her blog. The worst part of it all was knowing that they truly did hijack her accounts. Part of me wanted to post a screenshot of his email here, but I’m afraid of the retaliation that this cretin could lash upon me. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. They covered their tracks and left no stone unturned. They even removed her Google Analytics code from the hijacked blog, one of the ways Google Webmaster Tools allows you to verify that you’re the true owner of a website. But it got worse.
They managed to hijack her Google accounts (Gmail, Blogger, etc), web-host account, bank accounts, iPads, etc. You name it, this person had their sticky fingers in it. At one point, they even set up a wire transfer of all her life-savings from her bank account to theirs. Thankfully she called her bank to set up fraud alerts, caught it in time and was able to stop the wire transfer. With my help, she was able to prove to Google that she was the rightful owner of her blog, and her blog was turned over to her. All of this occurred from Friday through Monday afternoon.
I guess this person is really pissed that they didn’t get away with stealing a fortune, because he hasn’t stopped sending her harassing e-mails. Even yesterday, Tuesday, she received harassing e-mails. We’re taking steps to keep her online data safe, but still. This experience was harrowing to watch unfold.
Angry. Livid. Devastated. Violated. Chilled to the bone. These all barely scratch the surface of how I felt for her as I helped her fight the villain. Google product forums were inundated with our requests for help. And because I’ve had the unfortunate experience of cyber-aggression in college and in the blog world (which was peanuts compared to this), I knew that I couldn’t sit idly by and have my client fend for herself.
What have we learned? The internet is not a safe place.
Well, duh, Lisette. No, but really. How often do you change your passwords? How difficult to guess do you make them? Do you re-use your e-mail and password combination for multiple sites? Think about how many social media accounts you have. Multiple e-mail accounts. How many of us rely on our browsers to save our passwords out of laziness?
While I can track down IP addresses and change my passwords, you just never know who’s capable of what. This asshole told my client that he can control her iPad. Sure enough, her iPad was giving her problems.
How do you keep your data safe on your devices?
Please share in the comments below. This is such an important thing to discuss and I think there are better-informed people than I on this. Thoughts?