HOW DID THAT HACK HAPPEN? – Marilyn Armstrong

A friend asked me how a hack could happen.

You can find plenty of information about this in the news almost every night. Multiple attempts by many governments to locate these guys and take them down are always underway. The problem is, there are a lot of them. Many are funded by the Russians and for all know, other hostile governments.

Does everyone think these guys hacked our election, then quit hacking?

They’ve hacked (that I know of): Equifax, Bank of America, Adobe, Lands End, Amazon, Facebook … and probably a lot more than that, but these I know about because they have all been in touch with me to warn me.

Forget about the dozens of television series that deal with this issue. If you read a newspaper or watch the news, the information is not exactly secret. The busting of these hacker rings has been major news for at least three years and probably longer, so if you’ve missed it … you should catch up. Hackers thrive on people who don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why they pick on the elderly so often.

Essentially, it all happened in one afternoon. Anyone whose identity has been stolen can understand how quickly your financial life can fall apart. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. I lost no money, although I had to spend $90 on a new router. I also spent a lot of time rebuilding my computer, but since I did it myself, it didn’t cost me anything.

Should credit card companies be more on the alert? Absolutely. They are pretty sharp even now. Far more alert than our so-called government who seem collectively helpless to fix this. I think they don’t want to fix it, but what do I know, right?

Anyone can call Experion, Equifax, or TransUnion and ask that they put your credit on alert. You can do this automatically on the phone and you only have to call one company who will alert the other two. If one of you has been hacked or think you might be in danger, you don’t have to wait until they have hacked your accounts before you deal with it.

Once you’ve set up an alert, all credit companies must contact you directly before granting credit in your name or changing your address, telephone number, email address, or password. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve been hacked on Facebook — had their accounts stolen. I think someone stole my Twitter account, but since I never used it, I didn’t know about it for weeks.

If you think you are safe because nothing like this has ever happened to you, you are naïve. It can — does — happen to everyone. Anyone. Young. Old. Retired. Poor. Rich. It hurts more when you are poor, but it won’t stop the hackers. If you’ve got any money, they’ll take it and leave you with nothing.

These are not people with a conscience or a sense of right and wrong. They don’t care what happens to you. They do not care if they kill you in the process, either.

So, here’s the timeline:

1.  Facebook gave my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. For a fee, I’m sure. I know this because Facebook told me they did it. They didn’t seem upset about and felt I shouldn’t be either. Right.

2.  Cambridge Analytica sold my data to hackers, most of whom are supported by the Russians.

3.  They got more information by hacking my home router. This had already happened in Europe, but no one mentioned it on our news, so we didn’t know. By the time they did mention it, it was 24 hours too late for me.

4.  They pretended to be a different company and had sufficient data to make me think they might be real. When they demanded money to protect my computer, I instantly knew they were hackers.

5.  They attempted to take money from a bank who controlled 3 credit separate cards, two of which I knew about. I stopped the transfers and they never got anything. The final one I only discovered today, but again, I’m covered, so no loss to me.

6.  They locked my computer and demanded $1000 to “protect” it. Talk about a mobster move! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s no guarantee if you give them money they will release your computer anyway and I’ll bet they don’t. Not exactly trustworthy guys.

7.  To get my computer back, I had to rebuild it. From scratch. Which was not so bad — boring but not difficult. Because I back up my files, I was able to restore everything. In all, I lost one document, but I can live with it.

8.  I had to buy a new router with a protective patch.

Does this mean they can’t get me — or you — again? Of course not. These hackers are gigantic organizations heavily funded by Russian money. if they can hack Equifax, they can bypass my protection on a whim. And the places they operate are glad to have them. They hire people. They are a big business.

At the bottom of my personal mess is Facebook. They casually took my personal data and sold it to hackers.

It’s so simple …

Facebook made this happen. Our government helped them by refusing to go after the hackers. If you think Trump is a good guy, remember he and his team have protected these guys from the get-go. They have allowed the hacking, encouraged it, and supported it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also getting paid off.

You could be next. They may already have your number.

NOTORIOUS HACKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Notorious

The day after I got hacked, it hit the TV headlines. Every network news station had the information at the top of the hour: REBOOT YOUR ROUTER. Apparently, millions of home users had already been whacked in Europe. Now The Notorious Gang was here, hacking home routers and stealing credit card information.

It turns out they are the same Russian-funded group connected to Cambridge Analytica — Steve Bannon’s babies — and of course, you-know-who, the guy who occupies the White House. And it all started with Facebook. The social media site I only use as PR for my blog.

Speaking of notorious, these thieves have been known to rake in billions of dollars in a single day, probably mostly from people like me who really can’t afford it.

I didn’t even know that this particular card had been hacked and only found out when the card wouldn’t go through because it kept saying the address was wrong. I finally called the company and the address they had was nothing to do with mine.

I’d like to say I have no idea how they manage to hack our cards, but it isn’t that difficult. I’m no hacker, but I understand the rudiments — and that three-digit code on the back of your card? You realize that any routine number-running mini-application could track it down in about 2 seconds. Maybe less.

I still have to look it up, but thieves — NOTORIOUS hackers — don’t bother. They just push a key. A program runs. They find the number and are charging thousands of dollars to your accounts a minute later.

I’ve gotten everything back, though I have a lot of closed accounts at the moment. My credit score took a hit too. Fraud apparently makes credit companies wary of extending credit. Who can blame them?

What a pity they didn’t announce the notorious router hacking crew until the day AFTER they hacked me. What a pity that Facebook gave out my personal information to hackers, no doubt for a fee.

How notorious does something need to be before we notice it’s happening to us? Apparently pretty damned notorious!

SIX THOUSAND SPAM MESSAGES IN AN HOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

Although this hasn’t affected WordPress, my email has been walloped by more than six thousand spam messages in the last hour. About 5,000 were caught by the Google’s spam catcher. I took care of the rest AND changed my password.

For safety’s sake — for me and everyone — I deleted pretty much everything I had in my inbox, trash, and “sent” sections, then rebooted.

I was hit like this once before, but it was on WordPress. This seems to be limited to Gmail. They don’t have my password —  I just changed it again and even I don’t remember it without looking it up — but whoever is doing this is being extremely annoying. I don’t want to change email unless I must. So many things are attached to this email, it would be a real hassle. If I have no choice, I’ll do it.

And Facebook assured me it wasn’t going to be a real problem. They wrote me and TOLD me that. Liars.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, there’s no threat to anyone but me.

Just letting you know. I was one of the people hit by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and their televised apologies just aren’t working for me these days. I’m pretty sure that’s where all of this is coming from, though I can’t figure out what in the world they hope to gain from it. It’s annoying, but unless I was dumb enough to actually open any of these, they remain harmless.

We also installed a new router. To the degree that any home user can be protected, we are. I have to assume these guys think if they just keep swamping me with emails, sooner or later, I’ll open something.

I won’t. I promise.

THROWBACK THURSDAY – Rich Paschall

Keeping Old Memories Alive, Rich Paschall

Let’s face it, there are a lot of annoying things about social media.  Even worse than the fake news and memes being spread, making us dumber by the day, is the proliferation of new games, rituals, groups, pages, chats, instasomethings, broadcast thyself and say nothing.

You Tube channels (I have 2), Google +, Twitter and twitpic and tweetchat, YouNow, Ustream and the list for You is growing.  You can write it, sing it, chat it, pin it, post it, paste it, repost and reblog it.  The glut of personal pages and activities is beyond gluttonous.

Among the millions of pages and posts lies some golden moments if only you can find them.  Sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack, but sometimes a needle is found.  Perhaps you put the golden needle there yourself, hoping others will find it.  If you look hard enough, you may find gold too.

I have used Facebook, WordPress and YouTube to uncover new (or not so new) and interesting talent. In some ways, it has replaced some of my television watching, although I have uncovered more crap online than can ever make it through to broadcast television.

If you have been following along on Sundays, you will notice that I have pointed out some of the good young talent online.  There are some young people doing good as I pointed out when I asked if it was A Screwed Up World? I also mentioned up and coming talent here and on Sunday Night Blog. Recently, I profiled Tom Law in Laying Down The Musical Law, Steve Grand in All-American Boy and my You Tube favorites in Singers on Demand  So you can tell I am not completely down on the social media world.

One practice that has grown up on several social sites in recent years did not interest me at first.  In fact, I thought it a rather self-indulgent way of posting your old photos for people who really did not care on a medium that is so overburden with posts few would notice anyway. This now common activity is called Throwback Thursday.  Have you taken part?

The idea behind Throwback Thursday is that you post an old photo, video, or article from the past, and tag it with #tbt. Thus you will have made some sort of contribution to remembering something important or historical. It’s an interesting idea that has, of course, produced a lot of junk. Seriously, I do not need to see your video of you and your precious cat from 2003. It may bring tears to your eyes, but that doesn’t make it an historic document.

After this practice had gone by for a few years, I began to see the worth hidden in hashtag TBT. Items of merit were coming to light of social, historical and even personal value.  Now I gladly participate.

I still love cake

My personal photos of my charming self at a young age may be of no value in the social media world, but I have many friends and relatives on Facebook. I don’t see them often, so they may be of interest to those who knew me at nine.

We are sharing old memories through weekly postings. I’ve been amazed by the relics some folks have uncovered. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see old photos and videos that bring a smile to your face.

The Pajama Game is the game we’re in!

A few years ago I started a Facebook group for former students of Mrs. Laurette Kittler. She is a retired high school drama teacher whose instruction and guidance touched the lives of generations of students. I was proud to include myself in those who could celebrate this teacher’s work. I thought maybe, over time, I would find 100 students.

The group has close to 340 members, some of whom have been posting pictures and bringing smiles to everyone.  While many members of the group haven’t seen each other for decades, they’ve been putting up pictures others may have not seen since the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  Maybe they never saw them at all.  Now there are thousands of pictures.

When the formation of this group led to a “dinner and drinks” outing, I casually mentioned that among the many pictures I have and I have seen, I have no pictures from my Senior Class play.  I could have purchased them from the high school at the time, but I let it pass. It was my big regret.

During the week that followed, pictures showed up on Facebook, including one of me front and just left of center in a picture I do not think I ever saw.

South Pacific

Throwback Thursday has become a favorite activity. Sometimes I post a picture then look for items from others which will remind me of my high school days, my family and my youth. Nothing brings the past to life like seeing it. This is the value of #tbt.

My departed mother took a camera to many events in her life. In the 70’s and 80’s there is no telling how many rolls of 110 and 126 film she went through. Some months after she was gone, I sent many hundreds of pictures to my brother. I have thousands remaining.

Nowadays, I have a use for these photographs, on #tbt.

CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA AND ME – Marilyn Armstrong

I got a letter — a note more accurately  — from Facebook telling me that I was one of the people whose material was released to Cambridge Analytica. I do very little on Facebook except post my blogs from WordPress, so I figured they didn’t know anything about me that everyone else in the world didn’t already know.

What I failed to consider was that my posts include a lot more information and a lot of people who, in theory, they could track. I have absolutely no way to know what was or has been done with the information.

Check out this New York Times Article and draw your own conclusions. I don’t know what to think.


Who collected all that data?

Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The firm offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.

Cambridge has been largely funded by Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to the president who became an early board member and gave the firm its name. It has pitched its services to potential clients ranging from MasterCard and the New York Yankees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


But for the past few days, I’ve had more suggestions that this “thing” going on with WordPress is some kind of takeover of our posts, trying to push to the surface material someone somewhere wants to see and push away stuff they don’t like, we being “that something” they don’t like.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I have never believed in conspiracies if there was any simpler explanation possible — and there always has been a simpler explanation. I do not believe the Russians have taken over WordPress. Or, at least I don’t think I believe it. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe it.

Maybe it’s the Republican Party or a pathological group of right-wing southern Christians. Possibly, it’s the DNC because we never sent them the $3 they needed to keep Trump from being elected. I mean … seriously … how many times did they tell me that ALL they needed was $3. I didn’t send them the $3 any of the thousands of times they asked me. Is this some kind of progressive punishment for failing The Party?

We are watching “Reilly, Ace of Spies” on Acorn. This epic miniseries tells the true story of Sidney Reilly, the legendary super-spy, played by Sam Neill makes James Bond look like a wimp. What makes this so … bizarre … is that it’s the real thing.

There was this guy, Sidney Reilly — original name Sigmund Rosenblum, (born March 24, 1874, Odessa, Ukraine) — died Nov. 25, 1925, probably by direct order of Stalin.  He played with the rise and fall of governments the way I used to play Scrabble. He made a lot of 7-letter words and across the triple word score, too.

Maybe it’s his fault.

Nah. It has got to be the Russians. Cambridge Analytica has all my information and is out to get us. It won’t give up until we’re buried.

Garry says if I keep saying this, he is going to believe it. The truth is, if I keep saying it, there’s a chance I might believe it too.

That is the scariest thing of all.

I DON’T BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACIES

After many years of not watching “The X Files,” Garry and I ran out of stuff to watch. So … we decided to try watching X Files. Now, maybe a dozen episodes in, I have some thoughts on conspiracies and secrets.

x-files poster


Has anyone ever confided a secret to you? And you realized at that exact moment, it ceased being a secret.

Have you ever told someone something, realized you shouldn’t have said anything? Sincerely wished you hadn’t said it and asked them to please, please, never repeat it? And absolutely knew that everyone was going to know before lunch?

top secret 2

How did that work out for you?

Now. Imagine that the entire military-industrial complex including all of the important politicians of the world — the basic who’s-who of power in the world — had to keep THE secret.

What secret? That aliens are here and have been forever? That we are secreting spaceships in dark caverns in the desert? And that every single one of them was mandated to retain that secret for their entire lives and never tell anyone.

Figure that’s going to work? Whatever the secret was supposed to be, it would be in every newspaper and on every television station — not to mention every social media network — long before lunch. It would be a multi-part television series before the weekend … and these days … utterly forgotten before Christmas.

That’s my point. Not that aliens might be here — now or in the past — but that a secret of such magnitude could or would be kept for a single day, much less decades. This could not, would not, will not ever happen in this world. Certainly not anywhere there is an Internet and computers.

Which is pretty much everywhere.

THE MYTH OF PRIVACY

Who really thinks they have any privacy remaining?

What a shock it has been, discovering Facebook misused our personal data. Who could have imagined such a thing! Not.

All those cute little games on Facebook were a way for a sleazy political group to gather personal information about us and try to twist us to their goals. Like we didn’t already know that.

I also know people on the internet with blogs who think they are anonymous. They are anonymous from me, but that’s because I’m not interested enough to search for their real data. But — anyone who wants to know can find out anything they want about me or you or pretty much anyone. That’s reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Do you believe you are really hiding from anyone who is actively seeking your personal information? Because I can assure you, the only person you are fooling is you.

I stopped worrying about privacy when I began using the Internet. I was working in tech and I knew that everything you ever put out there stays out there. Forever. That was the end of whatever remained of our privacy — and there wasn’t much, even then.

Yet, the myth remains that we have privacy left to lose. Some folks believe we can trust our phone company, our devices, our ISPs, our government, and our postal system to keep their noses out of our private lives. This hasn’t been true probably ever, but certainly since before I was born.

Every form we’ve filled out in the past 15 years is on a computer that can be hacked — and for all we know, already has been hacked. Or is being hacked as I write this.

Everything is out there. It can be gathered by those who make money grabbing it. Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA and postal system were invading our mail and telephone calls when Eisenhower was president.

As long as there have been governments, they’ve been spying on citizens. Their own citizens and any others they can find. These days, I’m sure everyone is spying on us. Advertisers, political hackers, our government, our ISP. Our bank. Every company that sells a product you bought or might buy someday is watching you.

Each advertisement you click, any product you buy, every time you use that “discount” card for your groceries or gasoline or whatever, your personal data goes into a file. A data mining file. Which is for sale. Anyone can buy it.

Facebook is a tiny piece of a huge pie and we are the slices.

Should we worry about being careful what we say and to whom you say it?

Maybe. Or maybe not. It may not matter what we do or say. The amount of information being gathered by everyone about all of us is monumental. Gazillions of pages and lines of data.

The good news? There’s no way on earth they can sort through all of that information. The bad news? They have all that information.

I’m sure, by the way, that nothing that happened on Facebook or anywhere on social media changed my vote or could change my vote. I  bet they didn’t change yours either. We don’t get our information from Facebook memes or Twitter tweets.

No one can fix your vote if you think for yourself.