Mat Honan's cautionary tale, and instructions on how to protect yourself

Hackers nuke journalist Mat Honan's online existence and Sophos' Graham Cluley offers steps to avoid being the next victim.

If you want a devastating picture of what it's like to have your online presence ruined, read the latest column from journalist Mat Honan. For steps you can take to keep from being equally victimized, read Graham Cluley's latest post.

Honan tells his story here. Among other things, he writes:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.

Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.

Those security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them.

Graham Cluley's article is here, with six suggestions on how to protect yourself. From the post:

Victims would believe that they had been sent an attachment, click on the link, and be greeted by what appeared to be Gmail's login screen. Before you knew it, your Gmail username and password could be in the hands of unauthorized parties.

So, what steps should you take to reduce the chances of your Gmail account being hacked?

  1. Set up Two step verification
  2. Check if your Gmail messages are being forwarded without your permission
  3. Where is your Gmail account being accessed from?
  4. Choose a unique, hard-to-crack password
  5. Secure your computer
  6. Why are you using Gmail anyway?
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