Let me start with a rerun of the post I wrote when we got hacked in 2018. Not surprisingly, it was called “HACKED.” Actually, there were two of them: “HACKED AND HATING IT” and the next day, “HACKED.”
Like many other people, I assumed no one would bother to hack us because we have no money. We have an almost empty savings account and an income that hasn’t gone up in more than ten years. Living on Social Security is not fun and gets less fun with every passing year. Your income stays the same. Only prices go up.
The thing is, hackers get lists of hackable names and personal information from all kinds of places. You should not be surprised to learn that your personal information is for sale just about everywhere, from your grocery store to your bank. You know those little “discount cards” you get at many shops? You don’t get the discounts if you don’t have the card? I do my best to never shop anywhere that requires you have their “special” card.
Each card creates a list about you. Everything you buy at any of the stores that use one of those cards moves information about you to a list which gets sold to whoever has the money to buy it. In theory, the people who sell data are supposed to know who they are selling to, but mine was sold by Facebook. It wasn’t hacked. They sold it to “Cambridge Analytica” — a major Boston-based hacking company who then resold the data to anyone with the money to buy it.
It’s why I don’t use Facebook. At all. I tried to actually close the account, but even if you close it, if someone sends you a message — whether you read it or not — they automatically re-open the account. Regardless, we are ALL hackable. We have credit cards, even if the card is just an ATM card. And even if our account is empty, that does NOT mean you won’t get hacked because hackers are thieves. When they couldn’t get me to pay them, they locked up my computer.
I unlocked my computer. I reported it all to the police, but it wasn’t like I was counting on the Uxbridge Police to solve an international hacking problem. This group had hacked people all over Europe and Asia. By the time they started reporting the problem here, it was too late for many of us. Eventually Facebook “apologized.” It was a single paragraph saying “oops.” Their “oops” had resulted in five hacked credit cards and a locked computer I had to restore.
I did restore it. It took an entire day and then I had to replace all the applications on it.
In the course of the past three or four years, every place with which I have done business was hacked. Lands’ End. L.L. Bean. Bank of America. Adobe. UMass Memorial Hospital. Amazon. PayPal. Facebook. Even when I don’t know if a company has been hacked, I assume it has been because they don’t always tell us — and when they do, it’s a couple of paragraphs in a little email you could easily miss — months or years after the hacking event.
I can’t remember all the places because there have been so many. Suffice to say, almost everything has been hacked including Experian, the people who are supposed to be protecting us from hackers.
I don’t know whether or not smart phones or cell phones or any telephone is more susceptible to hacking then are routers and computers. Moreover, so much of the data in our world lives in “clouds” that live on servers that do not belong to us and are owned by massive corporations who control our online lives. Our email — no matter who we use — saves our mail in their “clouds.” So does Amazon. And, for that matter, everything and everyone else.
What can you do?
First? Don’t assume you can’t get hacked. You can and if you aren’t paying attention, you might not even realize it happened until suddenly you get a bill that’s insanely above what it ought to be.
Now, are cell phones — smart phones — more or less likely to be hacked than any other wi-fi connected device?
I don’t know. I don’t know because no one will tell me even if I ask and I have to assume they would lie to me anyway. I do everything I can to be careful where I go and my cellphone contains no personal information. Except, of course, my bank account because they closed our local branch and the only way to deposit check is via my phone. So even though I don’t keep lists of passwords or credit card numbers on my phone, it doesn’t mean that someone with determination and the tools couldn’t get to them anyway.
I no longer answer my “landline” which is, in any case, NOT a landline but a VOIP wi-fi connection. I can’t begin to tell you how much better my life is since I stopped taking calls unless I recognize the name of the person or company on the line.
I protect my iPhone to the best of my ability, but I know for a fact that my ability to protect it is not nearly enough. if someone wants to get me, they will get me. There are so many ways and the phone is just one of many.
What do I use my phone for? I use it as a telephone because it has better sound than the VOIP line. I play Solitaire on it. I get texts telling me my prescriptions are ready and I talk to my doctor. I have a Travelon RFID bag that supposedly stops hackers from reading the contents of my wallet. Does it work? Who knows?
None of these precautions are a guarantee. They don’t even have to hack ME. They can hack anyone with whom I’ve done business. Since the lockdown, we’ve all done a lot of online business. What else could you do?
Until such time as our ability to stop hackers exceeds the hackers’ ability to access our data, we are in peril. The new tools don’t add any significant additional vulnerability to those we already had. If they have your number — or one of your many numbers — they can get you.
Do not assume that poverty or living a small life means you won’t get hacked. These are hardboiled thieves. If you have a few dollars anywhere, they will steal it.
Moreover, there so so many ways hackers can access your data. Short of living without a computer and wi-fi — and never shopping online or having an account (like electricity, a bank account, and a medical record) that lives online and can be accessed — you are vulnerable. We are all vulnerable.
There is no place to hide.