Saturday, July 30, 2011
Confessional from Hacker Hell
Well, it's finally over: a long nightmarish week of life in a cloud-computing thunderhead, Cloud 8 1/2 as opposed to Cloud Nine, a dark cloud which, if there is a silver lining, it's strictly of the organizational variety. The Chinese have a term for making a mistake like I did: Loss of Face. In my case for falling flat on my shoulda-known-better ass for the oldest phishing scam there is: the "Lost in the Wilderness Send Money" scam. No, I didn't send money. I just asked everybody I know, ever met, ever emailed, or did business with to send money. Lots of it.
Luckily, nobody else fell for it, although one friend nearly did. Looking back, the Hacker-spammer-phisherman knew exactly which buttons to get me to push. Most disturbingly, I have long known better than to fall for internet scams, other than a car purchase/theft which I easily averted. Yet there is a weakness millions of us vulnerable humans seem to be afflicted with: a willingness, even a need, to trust. To believe. To Be a Believer: whether it's the latest get rich scam, penny stock, lottery ticket, religious con or Republican claim that being broke, busted, disgusted and unemployed is somehow guaranteed to make you rich like them if you simply trust them with what remains of your money and be happy being broke and so on.
But I digress (although, no, wait, this is about money, in the end. As William Goldman wrote, "Follow the money."). My own need to trust came from a different direction: My Quaker upbringing. Trust in God, I was told. So I trusted in Google, which is almost the same thing. I trusted G-mail. After all, they live up in the clouds too, don't they? So I Believed that if I got an email with the Google header and logo, purporting to need an update of my name and password based on random selection, or my account would be closed down in 48 hours, for some reason I believed it. That was the kicker, the one that worked. Lose my Gmail account in 48 hours? No way! This cannot be allowed to happen! My whole life is attached to that account, to all the saved emails, including the query letters and submissions, some with manuscripts and other writings attached, and certainly opinions on all and sundry matters deemed to be private.
So, of course, I made exactly that very disaster happen. And of course knew immediately I should never have clicked 'send,' I shoulda taken a moment longer and gone to Snopes.com first. What was the rush? I had 48 hours. But I was frustrated by an effort to ask Google if this was necessary, and of course there is no 'Ask Google.' Also, admittedly, I'm an impulsive sort, and sometimes, it seems, a careless one too. And some impulses can be fatal--like "Let's pass this fucking slow truck NOW, dammit!" And just luckily, this one was not.
Live and learn. That's what they say, whoever 'they' are. And some lessons are more costly than others. Luckily this one worked out, in the end--after five days of suspense, misery, agony without the ecstasy, and fielding angry or worried phone calls from around the world, mostly to the effect of: "This can't be true, right? You're not really in Spain and flat broke and for some reason desperately in need of $3,500, right?" "Uh, hello? Say what?" was my first response, followed by "Omigod, I am so sorry, this can't be happening!" Being safely in Seattle at the time, at least I thought I was, and yet these calls kept coming (emails no, because the clever SOB that stole my password promptly changed it, along with my security data, answering my emails posing as moi, demanding even more money (or maybe a little less?) and a five-hundred-million client Google.com forced to give the Occupier the benefit of the doubt as to ownership until convinced otherwise without actually having a readily apparent way to tell them.
Fortunately, I also have Friends in High Places, if not actually God, who helped facilitate my contact with Google's Recovery Team and convince them that the marginally literate, spelling/grammar/syntax and ethically-challenged person claiming to be the Author Gene Ayres (currently apparently broke and busted in Spain) was not who he said he was, and that person was, um, actually, ME! Moi. After all, I knew who I was and could prove it. And ultimately, as it turned out, my usurping impostor could not, and thus was vanquished and banquished(if not to jail in South Africa where he actually lurks). And my property and Good Name returned, if slightly tarnished from the experience, my profession, friendships and personal business are only slightly the worse for wear.
So, yes. Live and learn. It's a good motto. So is "Be careful out there!" Even for a Writer who thought he was immortal and knew everything.
Ciao for Now (CFN).