In this interconnected digital age, our lives have become increasingly vulnerable online. And unfortunately, there are people who use their advanced technological skills for malicious purposes, such as hacking…and…blackmail. Having personally experienced both of these in the (very) recent past, I feel like I should share my story.
Imagine waking up one Sunday morning to find an anonymous email in your inbox, from your email address, from someone saying they have access to your email and computer – threatening to expose all of your personal information as well as alleged intimate details of your browsing history, unless you comply with their demands (bitcoin, of course).
But, that’s not the only “attack” of the morning. All of your social media accounts have been taken over as well (or were locked for too many failed password attempts/resets).
The initial shock and fear can be overwhelming, let me tell you. It leaves you feeling confused (why me?), and violated, and vulnerable, and quite honestly, scared.
And then the questions start. Is this even real? What could they possibly have on me? Why do they even want my cookie Instagram? Or my Spotify that I’ve logged into one time? And then it hit me, it’s not about that – they don’t actually care about any of my accounts. It’s about power and control.
While I could feel myself getting swallowed up by all this, I knew I had to act. It was vital to take immediate action to reclaim my accounts and further protect myself as much as possible. So, I changed every password I could think of, enabled two-factor authentication on accounts that didn’t have it, and for the ones that did, I went through the excruciating process of taking my accounts back, one-by-one.
I didn’t acknowledge or engage with the hacker in any way during all this. I just worked in silence. “You’re not getting me”, I thought to myself. And strangely, by refusing to give in to their manipulation, I felt like I regained some sense of control over the situation. Zero percent chance was I was giving up one penny, my Instagram account, or even my stupid Spotify to a hacker (again). I won’t be controlled by a troll.
They kept trying though. I continued to receive hundreds of verification codes, password reset requests, and even a few “your password has been successfully changed” emails. My phone was blowing up for hours on end. I just tried to stay one step ahead, logging out of all devices and creating incredibly complicated unique passwords as the emails came over (that I may never remember, haha).
Unfortunately, I’ve been through something like this before, so I had a lot of safeguards already in place. And because of that, everything that was level ten important to me, I was able to secure or save this time.
While being hacked and/or blackmailed is pretty traumatic, I felt like this experience left me with only one option. And that’s to talk about it and become more of an advocate for online safety (aka – warn the people), and maybe we can all band together, get smarter about our online presence and account security, and take back our power by standing up to these pathetic hackers.
So, SET UP YOUR TWO-FACTOR AUTH on everything you can, my friend, it’s the only way to protect yourself – said with love. …But really, go do it right now.