SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED – Marilyn Armstrong

We are shaken, but not stirred

I read all the James Bond books before they made it into the movies. I loved the books and for me, the movies were more like parodies than anything to do with Ian Fleming’s writing. The whole martini thing about “Shaken, not stirred,” always struck me as weird.

Why would it make a difference? Not being a drinker of any kind, much less a martini drinker, I’m probably the wrong one to ask.

Nonetheless, we are personally shaken even if not fully stirred.

Garry at the Police station in Uxbridge

In the course of a month and a half, we’ve been the victim of an intended more than $7000 in credit card theft. Yesterday, I realized for the first time (I can be a little slow on the uptake) that this started at least three weeks before I realized anything was happening and continued after I was sure it was fixed.

I think it’s fixed now. I hope so because I have done absolutely everything I was supposed to do. We are lucky we didn’t lose any of our so-called money. The credit card companies are less lucky and have spanked us thoroughly on our credit ratings. Not that I can blame them. They’ve taken the entire hit leaving us shaken and fearful. Feeling incredibly vulnerable. But no poorer than we were before.

Main street in late June

I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked at my monthly credit report. Credit Karma is free. They track your credit, the amounts you’ve spent, suggest cheaper cards or loans … and they are really free. If you are not a member, I suggest you sign up. If I hadn’t looked at the report, I would not have known what was happening.

One card leaped off the screen at me, a card on which I knew I had used less than $1000 in credit and suddenly, a $5000 bill was staring at me. I called the company. Because the card had already been declared as damaged — involved in a fraud attempt — it was closed. I couldn’t actually get to any information online and had no idea about how much money had been taken. It looked like much more than I had thought.

Back to the post office to file the reports. Round two. Hopefully the final round.

The guy at the bank gave me a list — down to the penny — of all the hits. I felt sick. Until I saw that report, I had no idea something had been going on. There were no flare guns, no strange packages, nothing to alert me. It had been going on since the beginning of May, more than 3 weeks before I knew there was a problem. A week more before I realized the extent of the problem. The day before yesterday, I got it.

“This is considered identity theft, ” the bank manager said. This was confirmed by the guy at the police station because we had to go back with all this additional information. Previously, all I knew about attempted thefts. This was the real deal. The took the money and laughed all the way to the shops where they bought stuff.

Truck parts. Lots of truck parts. I didn’t know truck parts could cost so much money, but I suppose when you steal them for free, whatever you get for them on the market is “free money” for you. Not for me or the bank, but a hop, skip, plus a little jump, made some thief happy.

A quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

I assume big parts of our own private military hackers are on top of this stuff. Even though nothing is reported in the press, I would imagine this doesn’t get a lot of press coverage. All it would do is warn the targets.

The brightest — and funniest — moment of the day is when Garry called me from the police station and when I looked at the phone, it said “Interview Room 3.” It was a very NCIS moment.

I have alerted the police, all three credit monitoring agencies, filed reports with everyone. Deleted embedded copies of my credit cards from anywhere I knew they existed. Each time I use a shop, I will have to replace the card numbers then and as soon as the transaction is complete, delete it.

No matter what anyone says, if they are keeping your credit card information, your data is NOT secure.

These days, I’m not sure what secure even means.

FOWC — CONTROL? WHAT CONTROL? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Control

If I thought that maybe I had finally gotten my online life under control, I was wrong. Again. It’s just getting worse and worse and there is no end in sight.

I just got this message.


Dear Marilyn,
As one of our registered users, we bring to your attention that on June 4, 2018, at 1pm EST we became aware of a data breach involving 92.3 million email addresses of MyHeritage users, and their hashed passwords (these are not actual passwords).
We learned about the breach when MyHeritage’s Chief Information Security Officer received a message from a security researcher that he had found a file named MyHeritage containing email addresses and hashed passwords, on a private server outside of MyHeritage. Our Information Security Team received the file from the security researcher, reviewed it, and confirmed that its contents originated from MyHeritage and included all the email addresses of users who signed up to MyHeritage up to October 26, 2017, and their hashed passwords. We made a public announcement about the breach within 8 hours of learning about it.
Your email address was one of the accounts in the data breach.
Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage’s Information Security Team analyzed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system. We determined that the file was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users who had signed up to MyHeritage up to and including Oct 26, 2017 which is the date of the breach. MyHeritage does not store user passwords, but rather a one-way hash of each password, in which the hash key differs for each customer. This means that anyone gaining access to the hashed passwords does not have the actual passwords.

That is more than 92 MILLION PEOPLE whose email addresses — at the least — have been breached. There is more to this information including that they are sure no one really got passwords. I’d like to believe them, but since this hack was way back last October and I’m only hearing about it NOW, I don’t know what to believe. At least they don’t store credit card numbers. I suppose I should be grateful at least for that … but do they now have my DNA results? They say not, but they could. AND my husband’s.

You want to know how we get hacked? This is it. Companies get hacked. Half the time, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until months later, after which they do everything in their power to cover it up.

Hackers don’t need to breach our personal computers. All they need is information they get from hacking the companies with whom we work. I’m beginning to wonder who has NOT been hacked. Which company I use has thus far been spared.

Has any large company been spared?

Anything that sounds too good to be true isn’t true. Anyone giving you something for free is lying. Calls from Microsoft or the make of your computer (Dell, for example, or Mac for another)?

It’s a hack.

I got a call from “Dell Customer Service” this morning. Although Dell hasn’t announced a breach, I’m guessing there has been one yet to be announced because hackers have my computers basic serial numbers– which unlike a password, are embedded in the computer. As are numbers for every computer made. That’s how we can identify where the information came from and to whence it is going.

teravivos.com

There IS no safety as far as I can tell. Don’t talk to anyone on the phone if you have no reason to expect the call. If you have not contacted them and asked for a return call and given them a code word so you know it is actually the real people calling, HANG UP. No conversation. Don’t be cute. Don’t play mind games. Hang up. Immediately.

On another — yet somehow parallel concept — Donald Trump, our erstwhile national leader, seems to think he can trust Kim Jun On to “do the right thing” vis-à-vis nuclear arms. Right.

It’s another hack. Our NATIONAL hack.

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.

CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World

If you were to pack a basket for picnic lunch, what would be in your basket?

First of all, I’m not an enthusiastic outside eater, not matter how nice the weather is. At the beach, there is sand and everywhere else there are ants and flies. We used to cook on the back deck at the Vineyard. One day, a seagull swooped down and stole the steak directly from the grill. Hot coals and all. Now that is definitely chutzpah.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Did I mention the wind? On a perfect day without a trace of wind, the moment you put down that paper table-cloth, there will be a wind and the rest of the meal will be trying to keep the paper plates, cloth, even your plastic forks and spoons in place.

Georges Seurat

I love old paintings of elegant picnics, but the picnics in my life have not been elegant. Mostly, they have involved swatting bugs, finding stones to put on everything to keep it on the table — if you have a table — and generally eating as fast as possible to get it over with. Maybe there were fewer insects in The Old Days? Or maybe … they just ate the bugs.

Please enjoy your picnic. Take pictures, too. I’ll love the photographs, I promise.

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep?

Cleanliness. Working bathrooms. A non-sagging bed with a mattress that was replaced this decade.

And a convenient place to park so we don’t have to haul all our stuff up stairs and elevators while walking to a third story unit.

There are many motels that do not “get” the whole “handicapped” thing.

If you were to buy a new house/apartment what is the top three items on your wish list?

No stairs. A flat backyard. Easy to clean. Two garages — one for the car, the other for everything else. And lots of really BIG closets. Oh, did I mention an eat-in kitchen?

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

This was one hell of a week. I’m really glad that Garry will get his ear fixed and give him hearing for the first time in his life. I hated getting hacked and have spent the rest of the week replacing everything on my computer. So there was the good part — Garry will hear! And the not so good part — I have had to completely rebuild my computer.

Long term, Garry’s hearing is definitely the better part! By next week, I’ll have beaten back the last of the hacking, but once repaired, Garry will hear forever.

041514 sywbanner

HACKED – Marilyn Armstrong

Isn’t it fortunate I got a second computer!

It turns out this hacking thing is a big deal and it was all over the TV news tonight. They are hacking routers. Apparently, if you reboot your router (unplug or turn it off — wait 20 seconds — turn it back on or plug it back in) will help, but you need a patch from your manufacturer. Which I can’t get because my aging router, bought in 2015 (!) is no longer supported, though it is still for sale on Amazon. Very popular, too.

So to get my computer back, I burned it down. Fry baby fry.

Deleted everything on both drives, added a new version of Windows 10 and now I’m reconstructing it. I kind of forgot what an empty computer looks like.

No documents. No pictures. No application. Nothing at all.

It’s alarming. It took me two tries to get it to “take,” so I’ve been on the phone or the computer pretty much all day yesterday and today. I haven’t been writing or editing photographs. I’ve been figuring out WHO the hackers are — the same groups in India that are sponsored by the Russians and gave us good old DJT, our worst ever president (though to be fair, there have been other stinkers).

This set of hackers are dark web kiddos. Wow. Amazingly, they got nothing. Not a thing. Not a dime. I have been massively inconvenienced, but it didn’t cost me any money and I am extremely lucky. I had to cancel a credit card, create ALL new passwords for anything that mattered.

My brain is spinning. I restored 70,000 pictures to the hard drive and I have to restore documents, but these are all old documents and can really live in the external drives.

Bonnie guarding my computer

I’m sure everyone who has ever been hacked has asked the big question: Why me? There is no answer. People get their identities stolen every day. Credit cards are frequently hacked. This is not even unusual. I suppose what made it unusual was that I am so careful, I didn’t expect it.

Although I’ve restored pictures to my computer, it’s midnight and I’m tired. It’s going to take me a few days get a grip on things again, so I’m probably going to comment when I can, respond as best I can manage, but this has put a big hole in my life.

You have no idea how glad I am that I had my photographs and documents backed up on external hard drives. If I had been using all “clouds,” I’m not sure I could have restored things they way I have. Mind you, I’m not done. There’s a lot of software I still need to download including OpenOffice.

That’s for tomorrow. I’m glad I have my computer back. I wasn’t sure how this would go. It could have been much worse — and this was bad enough.

Reboot your routers, folks. Actually, it’s probably a good idea to do that every day or so. On principle.

WE ARE ARCHAIC – AND I’VE BEEN HACKED – Marilyn Armstrong

ARCHAIC

We were the hot new writers that got WordPress ‘on the board’ back in their early days, but we are old now and they want something different. More money. A lot more money. Apparently the profits they are making are insufficient to keep them rolling along, so pretty much everything that made them special is being trashed in favor of getting more people to buy expensive — very expensive — business accounts.

Since most of us are NOT businesses, we can’t possibly afford the price and for a writer or photographer, the offering is meaningless. If you aren’t selling a product, you simply don’t need what they are selling. And since they aren’t offering it “piecemeal,” it’s impossible. So at the end of this month, there will be no daily post, no weekly photo challenge, no other challenges. None.

That was the second worst news of yesterday. The top news of the day was I got hacked. Not infected with a virus, but actually hacked, like big companies. Which is pretty weird since this isn’t a company, big or little and we don’t have any money. What we do have and what they are after, are credit cards. I have been very cautious about adding cards to services. That’s the plus. And they didn’t get anything money from me, though they tried. Amazon spotted them and closed me down immediately as did PayPal. Walmart took a lot longer, but ultimately got it done.

The problem was not solved on my computer, so lurking beneath the surface of my computer is a massive porn site in Nigeria and under the pornography is a bunch of hackers from the dark web.

Whoa! The dark web? Seriously? Me? Why me?

I’m sure everyone who has ever been hacked has asked that question while pointing their lonely face at the virtual sky.

The answer is I don’t know. I’m sure that Microsoft knows and so does Dell, because the only way I realized I had been hacked was that they called ME. These guys are on their “hot list” of dangerous hackers, so now I’m listed on the “dangerous hackers” site too.

My accounts are closed and the only serious problem for me is that this includes Kindle books and Audible. I don’t have a password at Amazon and won’t until I call them and tell them it’s safe.

That’s the bad news. The better news is that I back up my stuff. Pictures and documents are all backed up to external hard drives. NOT clouds because if they were clouded, I might not be able to even get to them. The less good news is that my PC is closed down — off — and that’s where all my photography and processing software lives. So making pictures is going to be difficult until I get my other computer back.

The better news is that Garry and his ears are ready to move on to the electric Borg cycle in his hearing epic. We are waiting for the doctor’s scheduler to call. Sometime in July, probably. We’ll know more soon.

Overall, it hasn’t been one of my better weeks. I’m trying to not get too depressed — and not quite succeeding. It has been a week of losses and discovering no matter how careful you are, you are vulnerable. The bad guys are out there and you are the target. It isn’t because of who you are or anything special. They are looking to steal your credit card information and they have some amazing tools with which to do it.

Back up your stuff externally on hard drives you own — and be extremely careful about leaving credit card information in your online accounts.

Then hope for the best.

Just one picture today because it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment. Everything else is on hard drives that don’t interact well with this Mac … or on the other, off-line computer.

Great day in the morning, my friend. GREAT day.

SUICIDE OR CUSTOMER SERVICE? CLOSE CALL – Marilyn Armstrong

Just as I was thinking I finally had it all more or less under control, Garry’s iPad decided to NOT work this morning. This is probably because they put a new operating system on it last night. I know this because I went to use my mini and it was getting a new operating system, so I assumed Garry’s was getting one too if not at that precise moment, then sometime really soon

So, when Garry went to use it this morning, nothing worked. It refused his password, didn’t recognize his email. Basically, it was gone. Garry has zero patience with all things mechanical or electronic. The only reason he no longer kills every vacuum cleaner instantly is because I threatened him with permanent injury if he broke another one.

I don’t care how he feels about dirt. You have to empty it even if it is inconvenient and will make the process take an extra five minutes.

Computers? Oh, that is so much worse. I do not believe he is nearly as technologically inept as he seems. He doesn’t like technology, doesn’t want to deal with it, and has no patience with it. He wants to turn it on and after that, it’s supposed to work. Without any problems, ever.

He handed me his iPad. “I don’t have time for this,” he said. We had no plans for the day. It’s just he wanted to take a shower and watch some baseball. What he meant was “You always have time for this, so fix it. I’ll be back later.”

If there was one thing I didn’t want to do, it was call Apple customer service. My eyes rolled back in my head. I pretended I was dead. That didn’t work, so I looked up the number and called Apple. After bypassing the robot (why do I even try to talk to them?), I got a Person.

I told him that I was not in a good mood, that my recent encounters with his colleagues had not been positive, and I wanted this to get fixed really fast or I was going to stuff it back in the box and send it back and then they could figure out what to do with it. I’d had enough.

It didn’t take the 15 minutes I hoped for, but eventually, with repetitions of doing the same things we’d done before (and before and before), eventually, we got it to work. Without a password and no credit card. Loaded with Chrome. Garry’s iCloud email was deleted and if not deleted, no one will ever use it because the only people who know it exists are me and Garry and we aren’t talking.

Meanwhile, Microsoft tried to insert the broken download again. It failed. I ignored it. When they get it to work, I’m sure someone will let me know. Or it would install. I should mention that that’s the last time I let Microsoft mess with my computer. I had to completely revise my sound and they left all kinds of little applications laying around my desktop. If you’re going to borrow my computer for your research, clean up your junk when you’re done.

The Apple guy on the phone this morning was very nice. It was just that he was maybe the fifth or sixth Apple tech in a couple of days — and I’ve had it. NO tolerance left with anyone saying “I know it’s awkward, but that’s how Apple does it” after which he admitted that personally, he uses a PC and finds Macs annoying. Too many fiddly security things.

I said: “Thank you. So far, nothing I’ve done on a Mac has been easier than it was on the PC and as for photography, it’s at least 50% more difficult to do the simplest stuff. I understand about security, but at some point, most of us will ease up on security with the aim of just sending the email without having to enter one more (“Please make it something you will easily remember”) password.

This was also before I discovered my own little mini 4 was going to need to be fixed, too … but by then I was pretty good at it. I’ve had quite a lot of lessons in Mac management the past week.

I think we got it done. But that’s it. I can’t take any more. I’m finished. Not merely is dealing with these people infuriating, but it is incredibly boring. I may not do much with my days, but sitting on the phone arguing with people who know less than I do about computers is not on my list of choices.

You could drive a gal to suicide this way, you know that? I’d rather get my teeth drilled before I deal with customer service again.

Except my doctor’s office. I love them.