“I don’t have to worry about [viruses, hackers, data corruption, hard drive failure] because I’m on a MAC” is a phrase that I hear far too often as I work with and visit with friends, family, and even customers. Case in point is the experience of Mat Honan, a writer for numerous tech magazines, a senior writer for Wire.com, and a self-professed media innovator. His experience, although unique because of his high level of media exposure, is perhaps the tip of what may be a huge iceberg, which without his high level of media exposure may have never been brought to light.
Mat wrote about his ordeal in great detail and anyone who has any concerns about their online identity should read the entire article. What it points out is that more than anything else, the attack that he suffered was not due to any mistakes that he made in how he handled his passwords or any type of ‘risky’ online behavior. In his case it was the system itself and the industry accepted security measures at very large and well-known companies that you and I do business with daily, which failed him.
But what might be the most alarming thing about it is that this crime was not perpetrated by international hacking experts looking for trade secrets, or classified information, using complex hardware intensive techniques, but rather a couple of young, bright individuals who wanted to take control of a unique Twitter handle. And what’s more they used nothing more than tools readily available to ANYONE on the internet and even those provided by these large highly trusted companies themselves. Once they were in control of his accounts they were even able to utilize the tools that have always been thought of as a safety net to help secure our data in the off chance that our laptop or IPhone were stolen to help secure their control over his account and prevent him from being able to do anything to regain control. As a result Mat is facing the loss of over a year’s worth of PRICELE$$ data. Data that he admits should have been backed up, but much like the average-Joe computer user, just wasn’t concerned about: “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.”
So what can we learn from this pour soul’s nightmare experience? Well there are a bunch of people who are offering their own post-mortem on the situation, and I’m not finished going through them myself, but it seems to me that the easiest thing that he could have done to at the very least make the situation a lot less painful would have been to simply do regular backups of all of his most valuable data. In his description, he talks about going straight to his MacBook to do a restore of his iPhone when it suddenly went blank. And that’s exactly what we all would expect to do, but when he got there that one was blank also. So where do you go from there? Where is the backup of your laptop? If he had done a backup in the last 30 days, then it’s reasonable to believe that he would have been able to restore his pre$ciou$ data and then proceed to re-establish his control over the compromised accounts with a reasonably level head. One can only imagine how emotional his conversations with Apple tech support were once he realized what had been deleted from his life.