by Oo Nwoye
TL;DR: My mum’s email and Facebook were broken into. Although we know how to protect ourselves online, some of our family members (especially parents) are vulnerable.
This Easter holiday, while munching a turkey lap and guzzling down beer, I will ensure all members of my nuclear and a few of my extended family enable 2 factor authentication for all their email (Google, Yahoo) and Facebook accounts.
You should too.
Here’s the long story.
Yesterday, for 1 hour, I struggled to gain control of my Mum’s Facebook and email accounts.
It all started when I receive a Facebook message ‘from my mum’. I got the “Hello, how are you?”, and replied accordingly. Then as with any son who has an outstanding task for the parent, I went on the offensive. “The thing you asked me to do is quite hard. I am still on it”. She replied “Ok. no problem”
I responded “You are rather calm these days. It is good.” I was still puzzled my mum was quite gentle.
Then the giveaway happened next.
“Can you send me MTN recharge card (Airtime)?”
Immediately, I knew what had happened. While I was replying in the affirmative, I was on the phone to my mum asking for her password. As I logged into her Facebook, I saw a notice saying that her password was recently changed and last accessed in Tunisia.
As I was telling the person illegally chatting with me through my mum’s Facebook account to send me a number to text the recharge card to, I was trying to change her password.
I succeeded by sending a new link to her email and changing her password.
As I checked her sent messages to start letting the people that had been contacted that there was an intrusion, her Facebook logged out automatically.
The person had reset the password again!!!
I tried to reset the password again and lo and behold, I could not get into my mum’s email. The person also had access to that and had changed her email password. Luckily, my mum added a phone number to her account a long time ago.
THIS was the only reason I could get access to her email.
Going backwards and forward changing Facebook passwords with the intruder ended with my mum’s Facebook account being blocked.
In her Yahoo email outbox were sent messages to my sister with the attachment “pics”. Luckily, I contacted my sister before she accessed her email.
Of course, if my sister had opened that attachment, it would have continued spreading.
So even if you are protected, your loved ones are not. Meaning you are exposed in a way. All it takes is for that distant cousin to send an attachment “new family pics” to someone close for the virus to start crawling.
I’d advise everyone who is the “tech guy/gal” in their family to use this Easter holiday to help protect them by
Setting up 2 factor authentication for their emails (Google https://accounts.google.com/SmsAuthConfig; *Yahoo: https://edit.yahoo.com/commchannel/manage? and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=security§ion=devices&view )
Installing Firefox or Chrome and letting them know it is the new “Internet”
Teaching them NEVER to open unsolicited attachments. If it is too tempting, they should forward it to you.
With the popular 2 Factor Authentication, you are sent a text with a one time password anytime your web account is accessed from an unrecognised browser or device. So for your email to be “hacked”, the person would need to have your phone too.
Quite hard if the idiot is in far away Tunisia.
Happy Easter holidays!
*Yahoo does not technically have 2 Factor authentication. But having your phone to receive reset information is a good idea.
PS: The time security questions protected us have long gone.
by Oo Nwoye
I wrote this during the fight against SOPA. However, like many other posts, I did not get around to publishing it. I recently came across Google’s take action campaign that is against the plot by governments to sign new treaties this December that will regulate the Internet more.
Mind you, I did not say should be but ‘has to be’ from the view of the political class. I certainly do not want the Internet censored or more regulated.
A few thousand years ago, when the first structures of society where being put in place, the deal struck to prevent a physical society with anarchy was to centralize ‘power’ with the state (largest independent political unit) and then have representatives of the people run the state.
Fast forward a few centuries, a couple of wars, commerce, etc and the state became bigger, much bigger. Nations were born. The centralized power became greater. The chance to represent the Nation became smaller and the stakes became higher.
A bigger state meant a massive population which would be harder to control therefore it became necessary to control what they knew and how they could operate. Books, TV, Telephone, Radio, International travel etc came along and tried to scuttle the status quo. But the political class was smart enough to take advantage of it early and used it as a tool to control on a larger scale.
Then the Internet ‘happened’.
It was ignored, then ridiculed and before anyone could say “facebook”, societies of 1 Billion (the third largest in the world, certainly the most diverse) got formed. Information began moving overground (Twitter) and underground (BBM,WhatsApp). Internet companies started knowing more about citizens that the nations who gave them their passports. Transactions and currencies that could not be monitored started springing up.
It is ‘obvious’ this new power and control is too dangerous/important to be left to ‘ordinary’ people. The political class have to take it back.
So they’ve come first by passing the laws that will enable them covertly take back power. Countries like North Korea, Iran, China are being straightforward about it. America is trying to be smarter, they’re waving the copyright flag, child porn flag, the terrorism flag, then they will raise the victory flag.
Shall we let them win?
I know my post might sound incongruous. you may do yourself a favour and read The Fundamentals of Political Philosophy then watch The century of Self
Random prediction: In the next decade, the political structure of society will start changing fundamentally. Corporations will own the state and the national ‘borders’ will become more digital, dynamic and I dare say, collapse. Currency will become much more deregulated
This Internet thing has really fucked things up.
I’m happy 🙂
Please forgive typos…