Thursday, March 14, 2013

when email accounts get hijacked...

It transpired that earlier this week, my yahoo email address (which I’ve been using for well over 10 years) got ‘hi-jacked’ by a ‘spambot’ – an automated programme that seems to have it in for yahoo by the looks of how many other yahoo mail accounts have also recently started to send out ‘spam’. Fortunately I noticed it within a few minutes as was able to quickly reset all the security stuff on the account which seems to have stopped it. But not before it sent an email to several hundred email addresses that contained only a cryptic link to an usual looking web address.

Now, I know most people are pretty sensible and will have recognised this for what it was if they received it, and happily deleted/ignored it (I once received a spam email from the then chief executive of what is now Social Enterprise UK!). But I appreciated those who got in touch by email and phone to check I knew and was OK.
It happens all the time: we get odd emails saying we’ve won the Nigerian lottery, promising miracle weight loss, or from people asking for help as they’ve been mugged on holiday and asking to wire money to an offshore account to help them out... most of the time our email programmes filter them as spam, but when they come from email accounts we know and trust, they tend to land in our inboxes.

It seems to be a symptom of living in the modern technological age that sometimes despite best efforts, things go awry – twitter was massively ‘hacked’ a couple of years ago, facebook got ‘turned off’ once, and a certain high street bank’s system shut down unexpectedly leaving its customers unable to access their accounts, make any sorts of payments or withdraw cash for several hours...

I’ve heard of lots of people who are now giving up on yahoo and moving their email accounts to other providers. But I think that in doing so, they’re missing an opportunity to show some solidarity and support for a service provider that offers us access to some of the joys of the World Wide Web without asking us for any payment as its users. Just about every email provider suffers problems at some point from attacks by hackers and ne’er-do-gooders, but it we all bolted at the first sign of trouble from any group, organisation or person that caused us embarrassment or upset, without offering them the benefit of the doubt and a trust that they’ll make things better next time, we’d very quickly all end up living as hermits in caves.

My yahoo email account being hi-jacked was an annoyance and slight embarrassment. But it happens to people all the time. We have a choice for how we respond – get angry with the wrong person who’s suffering with us, or stick together to try and ride it out, creating some more trust in an increasingly fragmented world.