On the Case

September 5, 2010 - 11:19 am

Actually, it probably won't be a stage, per se. More like a lectern in the Washtenaw Community College amphitheater.

On October 6, I'll be one of three "victims" who will be telling their tales of woe to an audience of several hundred. The occasion will be a symposium on cyber security--and the lack thereof--sponsored by the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce and the Washtenaw County Commissioners, among others. 

 I can't say I'm looking forward to it. And I don't relish the prospect of being a poster child for worst-case cyber scenarios. But I do feel obligated to spread the word, stir up some healthy paranoia and help people see just how vulnerable they are in the online world. 

So if you decide to attend the symposium, be sure and say hello. It shouldn't be hard to find me. Just look for a woman wearing a sign that says: Don't Let This Happen to You. 

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May 18, 2010 - 2:19 pm

Today's Google Analytics report showed a visit to this site from Russia. They can't seem to leave it alone. 

Aside from jarring some unpleasant memories, it reminded me that I've been lax in letting people know about an article in this month's Ann Arbor Observer featuring yours truly and excerpts from this blog. It's a little on the tabloid-y side, but the editor, John Hilton, declared that he was going for shock value. 

The article is entitled, "Hacked: A Victim of Corporate Identity Theft Tells All." (I did say tabloid-y.)

If you don't have access to a copy of the A2 Observer, the article should be uploaded to their shared website fairly soon. You'll find their archive at:



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April 25, 2010 - 6:01 pm

At church this morning, a friend asked me how things were going with the hack. Was it still going on? Winding down? Any new developments? We talked for awhile, and I explained that the worst seemed to be over.

At which point she angled her head, squinted her eyes thoughtfully at mine and asked the question of all questions, the one that I haven't really had the luxury--or inclincation--to explore until now.

 "But why you? It doesn't make any sense."

Why me?

 I looked up at the altar and the Book of Job came to mind. I've never liked that book. Except for a few Old Testament scholars, who could like it? All that unnecessary suffering and tribulation heaped on a basically good man who had done nothing to deserve it.

But my God doesn't single people out for brutal treatment. So, no, I don't see myself as a Job-ette in all this.

Of course, in the spiritual cafeteria of today's world, it's easy to shop around for other cosmologies and other answers. There's Karma for instance, such a deeply satisfying and even rational concept. Then there's the idea that we create our own reality, that we are as we think. And let's not forget the notion of magnetic attraction, the supposed rule of the universe that light attracts dark. 

"It could be that the hackers confused my small-fry firm with the late, great Fitzgerald Communications of Boston," I explained to my friend. "Or it could be dumb luck." I thought for a second. "Or the Secret Service agent I spoke with could be absolutely right, and cyber thugs  are turning their attention to the little guys of the business world."

That last explanation makes the best sense. It seems that, in the digital realm, we all have a target on our back.

In which case, we may all need a refresher course on the Book of Job.


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April 11, 2010 - 8:53 pm

This mélée has created all sorts of unanticipated consequences. The most surprising has been what I call the Typhoid Mary Syndrome.

You remember the story of Mary Mallon, the Irish cook who--unbeknownst to her or anyone else--was a carrier of Typhoid Fever. Before the New York authorities figured out what was going on, tracked her down and quarantined her, she infected thousands of people, hundreds of whom died.

Mary herself was released from quarantine after promising never to work as a cook again. But for whatever reason, she broke her promise, got herself hired into a series of New Jersey households and left a trail of bodies in her wake. Her second quarantine lasted for 23 years, until her death--from pneumonia--in 1938.

Well now I know--a little anyway--how Mary must have felt. Soon after alerting clients and colleagues about the hack, the worried comments began trickling in.

Were my e-mail files safe to open? For that matter, was it safe to be in e-mail contact with me at all? Had my computer system had been infected? And what had I done to leave myself open to a hack of this proportion?

I suppose I should have my beautiful almost-new Mac put through its paces, just to be sure all is right.

And sure, some of the fears are justified. Even so, I'm feeling like a leper colony of one. 

My response? Since I never clicked through to any of the hacker's URLs (the ones embedded in the e-mails that were forwarded to me from the media buyers), and since system performance hasn't been compromised, and since none of my software programs are glitching, and since Macs are famously well protected from viruses, or so they say, I'm assuming the best.

But if you decide to phone rather than e-mail, I'll understand.

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